Regional Trade Boost for Cyber, Digital and Data

Australia’s trade agreement with 14 countries comes with a focus on telecoms, e-commerce, cybersecurity and the flow of data across borders.By Denham Sadler, InnovationAus
November 16, 2020

Australia’s new trade agreement with 14 Indo-Pacific countries comes with a focus on telecommunications, e-commerce, cybersecurity and the flow of data across borders.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was signed by Australia and 14 Indo-Pacific countries, including China, Japan, Indonesia and Korea, last week, after more than eight years of negotiations.

The regional free trade agreement, the largest of its kind in the world, will be ratified early next year.

Australia has existing free trade agreements with the countries involved, and the new partnership will build on these, with new commitments on open data, telecommunications cooperation and government procurement.

On data, the agreement will see the countries commit to ensure that businesses aren’t prevented from transferring data and information overseas, with an exception to be applied for the financial services sector and for national security or public policy reasons.

“The movement of data and information across borders is crucial for effective digital trade. There is an exchange of data whenever a product is ordered online, an app is downloaded or a program is streamed,” the agreement said.

“Businesses also rely on the flow of information to monitor systems and supply chains, analyse consumer preferences and collaborate with international partners. International trade barriers can arise if countries impose regulations that make this flow of information more difficult, time-consuming or expensive.”

The agreement will also “harness the growth of ICT”, with a focus on telecommunications. It includes a commitment to establish a framework of rules to govern trade in public telecommunication services and to encourage cooperation to facilitate trade in services” among the countries.

The countries have agreed to ensure that public telco services providers will provide reasonable and non-discriminatory treatment for access to submarine cable systems, and to allow the portability of mobile telephone numbers and promote reasonable international mobile roaming rates.

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