Insights Government publishes five-point plan for digital trade

The Government says that digital trade is now a significant driver of productivity and business growth in the UK. According to Government figures, the digital sector contributed £150.6 billion to the UK economy in 2019, employing 4.6% of the national workforce, and businesses selling goods or providing services digitally have taken local markets to a global scale.

The Government’s vision is for the UK to be “a global leader in digital trade”, with a network of international agreements that drive productivity, jobs, and growth across the UK. However, the Government says, the existing and emerging barriers to achieving this vision are “considerable”. While some countries are more open to digital trade, others are taking a more protectionist approach.

The Government aims to deliver its vision by addressing a range of barriers in five areas:

  1. open digital markets: to secure access for British businesses to overseas digital markets so that firms can invest and operate across borders freely and in fair competition;
  2. data flows: to champion data flows internationally, preventing unjustified barriers to data crossing borders, while maintaining the UK’s high standards for personal data protection;
  3. consumer and business safeguards: to champion consumer benefits and necessary business safeguards in digital trade;
  4. digital trading systems: to develop and agree digital trading systems with partners which cut red tape and make trade cheaper, faster, and more secure for businesses; and
  5. international cooperation and global governance: to collaborate with international partners to ensure that the rules and structures that govern digital trade are free, fair, and inclusive.

According to the Government, these five pillars, and its broader digital trade strategy, will complement:

  • its wider international trade programme;
  • the plan for growth;
  • the levelling up agenda; and
  • its trade and investment campaigns.

The Government says that it is already “making great strides” in building a network of international agreements on digital trade. Expanding the UK’s digital trade in the Asia Pacific region where technological innovation and the digital economy are growing rapidly is a priority, it says. The Government points to the UK’s free trade agreement with Japan and the deal agreed with Australia, which “sets out ambitious digital trade proposals. It also points to the launch of negotiations with Singapore and to “negotiations with the United States and the members of the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership”.

The Government also says that it is growing its network of digital trade agreements in other regions, pointing to negotiations with India and the trade deals with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. To access the Government’s policy paper, click here.