On 22 October 2021, the G7 countries agreed to new Digital Trade Principles. These include principles on open digital markets, data flow, digital trading systems, global governance and safeguarding.
Open digital markets
The G7 Trade Ministers committed to open digital markets while opposing digital protectionism and digital authoritarianism. Ministers committed to telecommunication and digital markets that are competitive, fair, transparent and accessible. Digital trade should be used to support jobs, raise living standards and address needs. Digital trade should also support entrepreneurialism and encourage micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Ministers committed to the internet being open, free and secure. Electronic transmissions should also be free of customs duties and Ministers support a permanent prohibition of such duties.
Data free flow with trust
Ministers are committed to data being able to flow freely across borders, with trust. Ministers are concerned about situations where data localisation requirements are being used for protectionist and discriminatory purposes, or to undermine open societies and democratic values. Ministers will address obstacles to cross-border data flows. Personal data must also be protected by high standards, it is important to cooperate on data governance and data protection. Ministers support the OECD’s work on achieving consensus on common principles for trusted government access to personal data held by the private sector. Open government data can play an important role in digital trade. Where appropriate, public sector datasets should be published in anonymised, open, interoperable, and accessible forms.
Safeguards for workers, consumers, and businesses
Ministers are committed to labour protections being in place for workers who are directly engaged in or support digital trade, providing decent conditions of work. Effective measures must be in place to ensure a high level of consumer protection when purchasing goods and services online. Businesses must have a secure digital trading environment, with the highest standards of cybersecurity and resilience against the illicit or malign activity. Governments should maintain effective and balanced intellectual property frameworks, with protections for trade secrets. Businesses should not be required or coerced to transfer technology or provide access to source code or encryption keys as a condition of market access. At the same time, Governments must retain sufficient flexibility to pursue legitimate regulatory goals, including health and safety.
Digital trading systems
To cut red tape Governments and industries should drive forward the digitisation of trade-related documents. This includes means of addressing legal, technical, and commercial barriers to the digitisation of paper processes. Single trade windows should be developed to streamline stakeholder interactions with border agencies. Governments should strive to develop these around common standards, with interoperability as a key goal, and in line with the best practice recommendations of the World Customs Organization.
Fair and inclusive global governance
Common rules for digital trade should be agreed upon and upheld at the World Trade Organization. Efforts should be intensified to tackle the digital divides between and within countries, taking account of the specific needs of low-income countries, notably the least developed countries. The rules governing digital trade should be future-proofed and responsive to innovation and emerging technologies, so that workers, consumers, and businesses can harness their full potential.
More information can be found on the Department for International Trade’s website here.