Remember AltaVista? NAFTA’s Even Older Than The Long-Defunct Search Engine

When discussing NAFTA 2.0, there are a plethora of competing issues and a cacophony of disparate voices, and yet, there is at least one common refrain emerging from all corners — the need for a digital chapter of the new agreement to bring it into the modern era.

That’s why we at the Canadian American Business Council have established a NAFTA Digital Task Force charged with making recommendations to the NAFTA negotiators.

Our task force is co-chaired by Canadians Lena Trudeau, CEO of Nuage Cloud Strategies, and Gabe Batstone, CEO of Contextere. As founders of technology startups that operate in both the U.S. and Canada, Lena and Gabe are uniquely qualified to lead this important initiative, and to inform the discussion with an understanding not only of what’s needed, but what will work.

Executives from Amazon and Google are also on the task force, joined by leaders from Mastercard and Barrick, demonstrating that technology-driven companies are emerging in all sectors of the North American economy.

The task force is currently preparing a report on the digital framework for NAFTA which they’ll deliver to the negotiators and the relevant government ministers and cabinet secretaries.

NAFTA is 23 years old, and was negotiated before anyone had even imagined the iPhone. The internet was still a baby, and many of us were searching it using AltaVista — may it rest in peace — since Google was two years away from its inception

It all seems unfathomable now, but consequently, NAFTA in its current state does not contain a word about the mammoth digital economy, e-commerce or the approaching Artificial Intelligence tsunami. It’s high time it did so.

The CABC Digital Task Force is examining issues that include cross-border data flows, and, in particular, data localization, legal jurisdiction and privacy. It will delve into principles related to digital goods and services, including customs duties on digital products, and tariffs on information and communications technology hardware.

The task force’s recommendations will be presented to the CABC’s board of directors in September, and ultimately to the NAFTA negotiating team.