Blog: Digital trade – an important element of UK-India FTA

By Gouri Thounaojam

The UK and India have recently committed to an Enhanced Trade Partnership as part of a 10-year Roadmap that aims to double trade by 2030 and states the intention to negotiate a UK-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA). As the business consultation in preparation for UK-India FTA negotiations comes to an end, it is a good time to talk about what we are hoping for the UK India Digital trade agenda.

While both our countries will work towards strengthening the trade relationship built on reciprocity and complementarity, we hope that the digital trade objective underscores the ability for UK and Indian businesses to seamlessly transfer data across borders with safeguards.

The pandemic has changed the way we conduct business; globally, governments and industry collaborated in sharing covid-19 related data to deal with the widespread challenges across health and the economy, hence it is imperative to incorporate the learnings and the benefits derived from data access and sharing in such bilateral discussion.

Cross-border data transfer empowers innovation and job growth across all sectors; helps businesses to be resilient and productive while working remotely; improves access to global R&D and clinical testing data; and improves supply chain management  by enabling access to innovative technologies and participation in global supply chains, and moves data in real time on inventories, sales, demand forecasts, order status, production schedules, etc., across different entities and locations to say the least.

Some of the proposed recommendations to be considered in the upcoming FTA negotiations for the Digital and Data sector include:

  • Stable and rules-based arrangements to decrease compliance costs and legal uncertainty for businesses.
  • Develop UK India specific adequacy decisions and standard contractual clauses to enable trusted transfers of personal data and/or anonymised data.
  • Rules should support and be compatible to International Standards for accountability, protection and to mitigate risk of unpredictive emerging regulatory frameworks.
  • Promote strong privacy safeguards and cross-border data flows as the backbone of the data and digital economy.
  • Resist mandatory requirement of data localisation. The ability to move non-personal and personal data cross-border is vital in order to promote innovation and investment. Various studies demonstrate that data localisation may restrict the ability of local companies to compete in the global marketplace by limiting access to the global supply chain.

The UKIBC has been and will continue to advocate for data regulation (both Personal and Non-Personal) that balances privacy and innovation and allows cross border data flows between the UK and India. We hope the FTA negotiations and India’s Data regulation have positive and modern views that allow cross-border data transfer to create trust-based relationships, standards alignment, increase and protect investment, respect IP and aims towards achieving digital trade’s full potential.

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