By Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Greg Walden

For decades, the government has championed the free flow of information across borders, a principle anchored in America’s commitment to liberty and the First Amendment. This stance has been a cornerstone of foreign policy, supported across political ideologies and technologies ranging from word processing to artificial intelligence.

But during the recent World Trade Organization negotiations, Washington policymakers veered sharply from this path. After decades of linking our trade policy to fundamental values, the United States trade representative walked away from our commitment to the free flow of information and opened the door to censorship and data localization requirements that threaten privacy, harm small businesses, and stifle innovation.

This new policy is at odds with the long-standing, bipartisan American commitment to internet freedom that began in the George W. Bush administration and was a key component of America’s digital policy even in the early days of the Biden administration. America’s resistance to global tech restrictions has also been instrumental in advancing a free and open internet across the globe.

This revised approach bears remarkable similarity to internet policy in China.

That’s a tragedy because China has consistently ranked at the bottom of Freedom House’s annual “Freedom on the Net” survey — and for good reason. The Chinese Communist Party censors speech and requires tech companies to store user data within China’s borders so that the state can more readily surveil it.

America has long pushed back on this approach and articulated a different vision for internet governance. In 2010, for example, the Department of State noted that “the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become.”

The commitment to the free flow of information is not simply a democratic matter. It is an American matter. That’s why when China sought to exert its influence on international governance bodies, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), James Lankford (R-OK), and Mike Lee (R-UT) wrote a letter emphasizing the American commitment to a “free and open internet” and raising questions about China’s attempt to undermine this value.