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Republican Platform Addresses Tech Related Issues

August 31, 2012. The Republican National Committee (RNC) released the 2012 Republican Party platform [62 pages in PDF]. It addresses numerous technology related topics, including trade related intellectual property issues, violation of trade agreements by the People's Republic of China, negotiation of new trade agreements, cyber security, spectrum auctions and inventory, FCC regulation generally, and proposals internet regulation to be considered at the December meeting of the World Conference on International Communications.

Free Trade, Trade Agreements, and the PRC. The platform advocates the negotiation of more bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), negotiating multilateral FTAs such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), and giving the President trade promotion authority (TPA).

The platform also advocates tougher responses to intellectual property theft and related actions by the People's Republic of China (PRC), including imposition of countervailing duties, instituting actions in the World Trade Organization (WTO), ending US government procurement of PRC goods and services, and "punitive" measures against offending PRC companies.

The platform begins with criticism of the Obama administration's trade policies. It states that the "current Administration's slowness in completing agreements begun by its predecessor and its failure to pursue any new trade agreements with friendly nations" is "deplorable".

It continues that "some governments have used a variety of unfair means to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, know-how, and technology -- the ``intellectual property´´ that drives innovation. The chief offender is China, which has built up its economy in part by piggybacking onto Western technological advances, manipulates its currency to the disadvantage of American exporters, excludes American products from government purchases, subsidizes Chinese companies to give them a commercial advantage, and invents regulations and standards designed to keep out foreign competition. The current Administration’s way of dealing with all these violations of world trade standards has been a virtual surrender."

It states that "a Republican President will insist on full parity in trade with China and stand ready to impose countervailing duties if China fails to amend its currency policies. Commercial discrimination will be met in kind. Counterfeit goods will be aggressively kept out of the country. Victimized private firms will be encouraged to raise claims in both U.S. courts and at the World Trade Organization. Punitive measures will be imposed on foreign firms that misappropriate American technology and intellectual property. Until China abides by the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement, the United States government will end procurement of Chinese goods and services."

It calls for restoring TPA to the President, which "will ensure up or down votes in Congress on any new trade agreements, without meddling by special interests."

It also states that Mitt Romney will complete TPPA negotiations, "to open rapidly developing Asian markets to U.S. products. Beyond that, we envision a worldwide multilateral agreement among nations committed to the principles of open markets".

Giving the President TPA would require legislation. A majority of the Senate would likely vote for such a bill. The Democratic leadership is another matter. Hence, partisan control of the Senate would be critical to passage. Also, while Republicans hold a majority in the House, not all Republicans members would vote for a TPA bill. The last time the House passed a TPA bill, in 2001, the final vote was 215 to 214. See, stories titled "House Passes Trade Promotion Authority Bill", "Analysis of the TPA Vote", "Technology, IPR and TPA", and "215 to 214" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 323, December 7, 2001. The TPA conferred by that bill has expired.

People's Republic of China. In addition to the references to the PRC in the section on trade, the platform states that "We will welcome the emergence of a peaceful and prosperous China, and we will welcome even more the development of a democratic China. Its rulers have discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth. The next lesson is that political and religious freedom leads to national greatness. The exposure of the Chinese people to our way of life can be the greatest force for change in their country."

It adds that "We should make it easier for the people of China to experience our vibrant democracy and to see for themselves how freedom works. We welcome the increase in trade and education alliances with the U.S. and the opening of Chinese markets to American companies."

It also states that "Our serious trade disputes, especially China's failure to enforce international standards for the protection of intellectual property and copyrights, as well as its manipulation of its currency, call for a firm response from a new Republican Administration."

Cyber Security. While the platform does not cite pending bills by number or title, it is clear that it favors legislation that would encourage information sharing between the private sector and government, which is the gist of the House passed HR 3523 [LOC | WW], the "Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act" or "CISPA", and Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) S 2151 [LOC | WW], the "Secure IT Act".

The platform is also clear that it opposes creation a government cyber security regulatory regime, which is a key component of Sen. Joe Lieberman's (D-CT) S 3414 [LOC | WW], the "Cybersecurity Act of 2012".

The platform also advocates updating the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

See, story titled "Senate Rejects Cloture on Sen. Lieberman's Cyber Security Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,419, August 3, 2012, and stories titled "Senate May Take Up Lieberman Collins Cyber Security Bill", "Summary of S 3414", "Sen. McCain Criticizes S 3414", "Obama Calls for Cyber Security Standards Bill", and "Reaction to S 3414" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,415, July 30, 2012.

The platform states that "The government and private sector must work together to address the cyberthreats posed to the United States, help the free flow of information between network managers, and encourage innovation and investment in cybersecurity. The government must do a better job of protecting its own systems, which contain some of the most sensitive data and control some of our most important facilities."

With respect to the FISMA, it states that "we encourage an immediate update of the law that was drafted a decade ago to improve the security of government information systems. Additionally, we must invest in continuing research to develop cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies to protect the U.S. However, we acknowledge that the most effective way of combating potential cybersecurity threats is sharing cyberthreat information between the government and industry, as well as protecting the free flow of information within the private sector."

With respect to the security of private sector systems, the platform states that "The current Administration’s laws and policies undermine what should be a collaborative relationship and put both the government and private entities at a severe disadvantage in proactively identifying potential cyberthreats. The costly and heavy-handed regulatory approach by the current Administration will increase the size and cost of the federal bureaucracy and harm innovation in cybersecurity."

It continues that "The government collects valuable information about potential threats that can and should be shared with private entities without compromising national security. We believe that companies should be free from legal and regulatory barriers that prevent or deter them from voluntarily sharing cyberthreat information with their government partners."

It also states that "We will pursue an effective cybersecurity strategy, supported by the necessary resources, that recognizes the importance of offensive capabilities. Whether it is a nation-state actively probing our national security networks, a terror organization seeking to obtain destructive cyber capabilities, or a criminal network’s theft of intellectual property, more must be done to deter, defeat, and respond to cyberthreats."

It also criticizes "leaks by senior Administration officials regarding cyber warfare, ... unprecedented leaks that compromised key sources and methods and damaged our national security -- served the single purpose of propping up the image of a weak President."

This is a reference to disclosure of information about US cyber attacks directed at Iran's nuclear weapons program. See also, story titled "Members of Congress Condemn Leaks of Information About US Cyber Attacks on Iran" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,391, June 6, 2012, and "Intelligence Committee Leaders Hold News Conference to Condemn Cyber Warfare Leaks" and related stories in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,394, June 9, 2012.

Spectrum, Broadband, FCC Regulation. The Republican platform is critical of the Obama Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) regulation and policy, including its December 2010 order regulating broadband internet access service (BIAS), and its failure to auction spectrum.

The FCC's BIAS rules (also sometimes referred to as either network neutrality or open internet rules) are contained in the Report and Order (R&O) [194 pages in PDF] adopted on December 21, 2010, and released on December 23, 2010. This R&O is FCC 10-201 in GN Docket No. 09-191 and WC Docket No. 07-52. See also, stories in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,186, December 22, 2010, and TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,188, December 24, 2010.

The platform uses broad and vague terms such as "out of date" and "the administration's Luddite approach", but is short on specifics.

It states that "Today's technology and telecommunications industries are overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, established in 1934 and given the jurisdiction over telecommunications formerly assigned to the Interstate Commerce Commission, which had been created in 1887 to regulate the railroads. This is not a good fit. Indeed, the development of telecommunications advances so rapidly that even the Telecom Act of 1996 is woefully out of date. An industry that invested $66 billion in 2011 alone needs, and deserves, a more modern relationship with the federal government for the benefit of consumers here and worldwide."

It continues that "The current Administration has been frozen in the past. It has conducted no auction of spectrum, has offered no incentives for investment, and, through the FCC's net neutrality rule, is trying to micromanage telecom as if it were a railroad network. It inherited from the previous Republican Administration 95 percent coverage of the nation with broadband. It will leave office with no progress toward the goal of universal coverage -- after spending $7.2 billion more. That hurts rural America, where farmers, ranchers, and small business manufacturers need connectivity to expand their customer base and operate in real time with the world’s producers. We encourage public-private partnerships to provide predictable support for connecting rural areas so that every American can fully participate in the global economy."

Finally, it states that "We call for an inventory of federal agency spectrum to determine the surplus that could be auctioned for the taxpayers' benefit. With special recognition of the role university technology centers are playing in attracting private investment to the field, we will replace the administration's Luddite approach to technological progress with a regulatory partnership that will keep this country the world leader in technology and telecommunications."

Internet Freedom. The platform also alludes to the upcoming 2012 ITU World Radiocommunication Conference.

It states that "We oppose any diplomatic efforts that could result in giving the United Nations unprecedented control over the Internet. International regulatory control over the open and free Internet would have disastrous consequences for the United States and the world."

Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), now head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), stated in a release that "The Republican Party platform language strikes a very smart balance: it emphasizes the importance of us doing more as a nation to protect our intellectual property from online theft while underscoring the critical importance of protecting internet freedom."

See also, statement by Sandra Aistars, head of the Copyright Alliance.