Trade Knowledge Exchange > Events > Tackling policy challenges in the digital era

Tackling policy challenges in the digital era

15 June 2021


Data and the rise of digitisation have reshaped trade and the way we think about it.

To discuss some of these policy issues, Frontier Economics and Fieldfisher LLP hosted a webinar that considered some of the main policy challenges from a UK and a global perspective. Presentations by Eleonor Duhs (Fieldfisher), Lucy Ashton (Association of British Insurers) and Amar Breckenridge (Frontier Economics) covered legal, industry and economic perspectives, and were moderated by Prof L. Alan Winters (UK Trade Policy Observatory).

The presentations highlighted that data issues lie at the intersection of an array of policy questions. Security, privacy, market power, sector regulation and industrial strategy were all matters that governments have to deal with, in addition to the contributions cross-border data flows make to international trade. These contributions are substantial: they are worth over 2% of GDP per year for the UK and the US, and around 1% for China. That in turn means that governments need to carefully consider how any trade-offs between trade and the pursuit of wider policy objectives are managed. This is particularly true for the UK at this current juncture, as it develops its own National Data Strategy.

The UK is aiming to build a world-leading data economy.  This will entail championing the international flow of data and conferring “data adequacy” on global partners.  Data adequacy is a formal determination that the standards of data protection in the UK and the third country are essentially equivalent, thereby enabling the free flow of data between the UK and the relevant jurisdiction.  However, in order to maintain the free flow of data from the EU to the UK, the UK will have to ensure that conferring adequacy on trading partners does not undermine the UK’s own high standards of data protection.

At a global level, there is a strong case for reducing regulatory divergence and finding common principles to harness the trade benefits of data flows while leaving policy space to pursue other objectives. But this is not going to be easy. Trade agreements and rules may provide a mechanism. However, data governance is really about deep institutional reform, and this will require a broader range of analytical tools, processes and instruments than typically used by the trade policy community and trade negotiators. This broadening will be crucial to making sure that approaches to data and trade are fit for purpose in the digital era.

This webinar is one of a series of periodic events organised as part of the TKE partnership.

Presentations from the event are shared below (click on the images to access slides). A recording of Eleonor Duhs’ presentation can be accessed here.

Data governance and cross-border trade, Eleonor Duhs (Fieldfisher).

Insurance in a digital world, Lucy Ashton (Association of British Insurers).

Data and trade flows, Amar Breckenridge (Frontier Economics).