Throughout 2016, many countries around the world keep on competing for market share in high-wage, innovation-based industries. Indeed, these countries have turned to “innovation mercantilism” by imposing protectionist policies to expand domestic production and exports of high-tech goods and services.
In this setting, innovation mercantilist policies are being oriented to high-value tech sectors such as life sciences, renewable energy, computers and electronics, and Internet services. There are new “beggar-thy-neighbor” strategies adopted by nation-states, such as forcing companies to transfer the rights to their technology or forcing them to relocate their production, research and development (R&D), or data-storage activities. These strategies aim at both replacing imports with domestic production or promoting exports.
At this respect, the 2016 Information Technology and Innovation Foundation annual report shows that:
- China introduced a new cybersecurity law so as to impose local data-storage requirements, and forced intellectual property and source code disclosures. This country also introduced new cloud-computing restrictions so as to exclude and prevent foreign firms from operating in the Chinese market.
- Germany introduced forced local data-storage requirements as part of a new telecommunications data law.
- Indonesia introduced forced local data-storage requirements for Internet-based content providers. The country also introduced a patent law amendment in order to force local production and technology transfers.
- Russia introduced forced local data-storage requirements and encryption-key disclosure as part of a new telecommunications data law. The country also introduced new government procurement rules in order to ban the purchase of foreign software.
- Turkey introduced a new data-protection law that, as a matter of fact, forced local data storage.
- Vietnam introduced forced local data-storage requirements for Internet-based content providers. The country also introduced a new network-security law that forces disclose encryption keys and source codes a condition of market access.
New protectionist trends have also been observed in the United States. As of January 23, 2017, the new American president Donald Trump’s decided to remove the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or T.P.P. This decision signalizes that the United States are not willing to be permanently tied to East Asia, mainly a rising China, by free-trade strategies. Instead, it is believed that American workers would be protected against competition from low-wage countries, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, also parties to the trade deal.
As America looks inward to increase investment in manufacturing, to reduce the dependence on East Asia imports and to stimulate job creation, among other domestic challenges, the outcomes of the revision of free-trade strategies will certainly carry out relevant geopolitical implications.