UK announces digital trade strategy

The UK government published a policy paper which outlines its main digital trade objectives. The government aims to secure access for British businesses to overseas digital markets and allow UK consumers to access a wider variety of products and services. The paper is structured around five main points: open digital markets, data flows, consumer and business safeguards, digital trading systems, and international cooperation and global governance. Free data flows are given prominent importance. The UK aims to champion free data flows internationally, and seek to minimise data localisation, which is seen as harmful to competition. The document also touches upon other topics that have been high on the agenda of e-commerce negotiations taking place in the WTO and in regional trade agreements, such as access to the source code, privacy and consumer protection. Under the last point, the UK aims to advance digital consumer rights, such as seeking access to redress, fostering the adoption of net neutrality provisions, and reducing unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam). The paper also advocates in favor of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions, which has been periodically renewed at the WTO. While the UK remains committed to being a leading voice in the context of the ongoing e-commerce negotiations at the WTO’s Joint Statement Initiative (JSI), the country also gives priority to the expansion of closer and deeper partnerships in the Asia Pacific, bilaterally and multilaterally. For example, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, anticipated that the UK will be the first European country to pursue a digital economy agreement with Singapore, and affirmed that ‘that is the type of modern deal we can and should be striking’.