Data and the rise of digitisation have reshaped trade and the way we think about it.
To discuss some of these policy issues, Frontier 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 are 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.
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.
Frontier Economics regularly advises clients on policy and strategy questions in the areas of data and trade. In partnership with UKTPO, it launched the Trade Knowledge Exchange (TKE). The webinar is one of a series of periodic events organised as part of the TKE partnership.