G7 trade ministers set out new principles for digital trade and cross-border data use

Mon 25 Oct 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


G7 trade ministers have agreed principles to govern cross-border data use and digital trade, moving the area out of the “wild west”.

The UK’s Anne-Marie Trevelyan hosted the meeting of trade ministers from the world’s leading economies on Friday which produced a breakthrough that could liberalise hundreds of billions of dollars of international commerce.

According to Reuters, the deal sets out a middle ground between the highly regulated data protection regimes of European countries and the more open approach of the US.

New approach

“We oppose digital protectionism and authoritarianism and today we have adopted the G-7 Digital Trade Principles that will guide the G-7′s approach to digital trade,” the communique published by Britain said.

A government statement on the principles says that they cover areas such as:

  • the free and trusted flow of data
  • safeguards for workers, consumers and businesses
  • digital trading systems
  • fair and inclusive global governance

SMEs need help

Currently, differing rules over the use of customer data can create significant barriers, particularly for SMEs.

However, the new deal could help reduce barriers by producing a set of global rules for digital traders.

A British official with knowledge of the deal said: “All of us rely on digital trade every day, but for years the global rules of the game have been a wild west that have made it difficult for businesses to seize the immense opportunities on offer.”

UN report

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued a report last month calling for the world to adopt a new approach to digital data that would maximise development gains and ensure that they are equitably distributed.  

“It is more important than ever to embark on a new path for digital and data governance,” UN secretary-general António Guterres said in his preface. “The current fragmented data landscape... may create more space for substantial harms related to privacy breaches, cyberattacks and other risks.”

UK plan

Closer to home, the UK’s trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has highlighted the need for Britain to break down digital trade barriers to help services exporters.

Trevelyan used her first speech as minister at London Tech Week last month to launch a five-point plan for digital trade.

CNBC reports that remotely delivered trade was worth £326bn to Britain alone in 2019 – a quarter of all its trade.