The G20 Osaka Data Track raises controversy

The G20 summit took place from 28 to 29 June in Osaka, Japan. At the sidelines of the summit, a special event on the digital economy gathered G20 leaders and other countries who are currently participating in the informal plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce at the WTO. Together, they issued the Osaka Declaration on Digital Economy, announcing the launch of the ‘Osaka Track’, a process that aims to intensify efforts on international rule-making on the digital economy, especially on data flows and e-commerce, while promoting enhanced protections for intellectual property, personal information, and cybersecurity.

The signatories of the Osaka Declaration on the Digital Economy hope to ‘provide a political impetus to the negotiations on e-commerce at the WTO’. The Osaka Track is inspired by the idea of ‘Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT)’ proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum 2019, aiming to eliminate restrictions on cross-border data flows. India, Indonesia and South Africa, among other countries, decided not to sign the Declaration.

The reasons for doing so could be summarized as follows: a) data should be discussed within the WTO. The Osaka Track could undermine multilateral talks on e-commerce taking place under the WTO Work Program on Electronic Commerce; b) it is important to preserve the policy space of developing countries with regards to data governance, given the key role it plays on development c) some countries, such as India, have enacted significant data localization rules that could be undermined by the DFFT.