techUK has launched its report on future UK international digital trade policy, A Vision for UK Digital Trade Policy. This report sets out an ambitious agenda for the UK to shape global digital trade policy.
The UK is one of the world’s most significant tech sectors, receiving £6.3bn of venture capital investment in 2018, and ranking fourth in the world for scaleup investment after US, China and India. To ensure this continued success the UK will need an effective new digital trade strategy.
The UK has a unique opportunity to set a new course in its trade policy and design its approach from the ground up. This will be a digital century and the report sets out why the Government must put digital at the heart of its trade policy.
As one the world’s largest digital economies the UK has benefited from the rapid expansion of global digital trade which is now estimated to be worth more than $25 trillion. To take full advantage of the digitisation of the global economy and improve access to new markets, UK trade policy must become digital by default and provide a counterweight to growing trends towards digital protectionism. The recommendations in techUK’s report provide a roadmap for achieving this.
The report sets out 12 business-backed principals that the UK should follow to develop a successful digital trade policy, while also setting out practical steps to support the expansion of digital trade through UK international trade policy. These include:
Setting the UK’s trade policy as digital-by-default. By seeking to remove duties and taxes on low value e-commerce sales while also seeking to expand paperless trading and e-signatures to reduce trade costs across global supply chains.
Opposing protectionism and acting at the multilateral level. The UK should take a tough line to oppose data localisation and the forced transfer of source codes in exchange for market access. As well as enshrining these provisions in its own FTAs the UK should also act at the multilateral level to support an agenda of liberalising digital trade. This should include supporting the liberalisation of services trade and throwing UK diplomatic clout behind achieving a positive outcome on e-commerce in the Joint Strategic Initiative (JSI) negotiations at the WTO.
Supporting the free flow of data and regulated access to data sets; ensuring that data can flow across borders is the essential bedrock of digital trade. The UK should ensure that it enables the cross-border flow of data in future trade agreements without compromising data protection standards and ensure that regulated access to data is facilitated.
Ahead of the launch of the report Julian David, CEO of techUK said:
“Digital trade is a growing part of the global economic system and the UK has a major stake in making a success of that.”
“A lack of shared definitions and norms for digital trade have helped create the conditions where protectionism can spread. However, as the UK takes up its own seat at the WTO and begins negotiating new free trade agreements, we can become an important counterweight to the trend of protectionism.”
“Our open and business-friendly policies provide the UK with a unique opportunity to play a leading role in developing the international trading rules that will govern the exchange of goods and services which drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
“The proposals set out in this report will allow the UK to spearhead the innovation and technological advances that will help us to tackle the major challenges that impact the future of people, society, the economy and our planet.”
Minister of State Nigel Adams said:
“This is an insightful report as we look to shape our future global digital trade policy.
“The tech sector in the UK goes from strength to strength, attracting record levels of investment in 2019. We are determined to keep up this momentum and ensure we have the right conditions for it to continue to grow and succeed on a global stage."
HM Trade Commissioner Asia Pacific Natalie Black said:
"The digital economy has transformed global trade, and the importance of cross-border flows of data and services will be vital for the future of global trade.
"Digital trade impacts on all sectors of the economy. It can deliver higher productivity and greater innovation in sectors as diverse as finance, retail and logistics.
"As a world-leading digital economy, the UK shares the ambition of many countries across Asia-Pacific of developing world-leading standards for digital trade, and this report from techUK setting out their vision for the future of UK digital trade policy is a welcome contribution towards meeting that ambition."
The full report can be read here.