Digitrade Digest # 96


South Korea joins DEPA as first non-founding partner


Pulse: South Korea has officially acceded to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), becoming the first member country outside of its founding partners, Seoul’s Trade Ministry said on Friday.

DEPA, hailed as the world’s first plurilateral digital trade agreement, aims to establish comprehensive rules and foster cooperation among participating nations on critical aspects of digital trade, including cross-border data flows, digital identities and artificial intelligence.

Initially signed by Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, the members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), this pioneering agreement has now expanded its reach with Korea’s inclusion.

On Thursday (local time), Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun engaged with his counterparts from the three founding members during the OECD Ministerial Council meeting in Paris. The talks culminated in substantial progress towards Korea’s accession to the pact, marking a significant milestone for the country. It is Korea’s second digital trade agreement after the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA), which came into effect in January.

Based on the DEPA, it is expected to expand opportunities for Korean companies to increase their e-commerce-based exports and digital content and services overseas, focusing on key countries in ASEAN, Oceania and Latin America. In addition, the scope of DEPA’s benefits is expected to expand as more countries join in the future.

Korea’s application to join the DEPA was set in motion in September 2021. Since then, six rounds of negotiations were held to complete the domestic legal and institutional checks required for accession.

Beyond Korea’s accession, the DEPA has attracted interest from other nations as well. China and Canada have already submitted formal requests to join the agreement.

Korea’s involvement in the DEPA is expected to bolster its digital economic competitiveness and open up new avenues for its global digital trade network.

The Ministry of Trade is now focused on finalizing the necessary domestic procedures and additional requirements to ensure that the DEPA comes into force within this year.

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Tech sector’s hopes dim for quick US-UK digital trade deal

FinancialTimes: UK hopes of securing a quick deal to deepen digital trade ties with the US have run into the diplomatic sands amid growing resistance to such pacts in Washington, technology industry insiders have warned.

The sector’s frustrations emerged as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak landed in Washington for a meeting with President Joe Biden at which the two leaders are expected to seek closer economic ties.

Tech groups have been hoping for London and Washington to forge ahead towards a deal to boost digital transactions, even if they have ruled out talks on a more comprehensive free trade agreement for now.

In April last year in Aberdeen, Scotland, the US and the UK had agreed to set out an “ambitious road map” to deepen trade ties, including “harnessing the benefits of digital trade”.

But critics say the Biden administration is now soft-pedalling the prospects of a digital deal with the UK, as some lawmakers on the left side of the Democratic party increasingly balk at provisions that would benefit big technology companies.

“The reality is that nothing has happened since the joint statement in Aberdeen because the US has been unwilling to engage substantively in digital trade negotiations for domestic political reasons,” said Sabina Ciofu, the head of the International Policy and Trade Programme at the lobby group TechUK.

Under former president Donald Trump, the US included sweeping provisions to boost digital trade in the USMCA agreement with Mexico and Canada, and struck a standalone digital trade deal with Japan.

These deals included provisions to provide legal certainty on data flows, ban restrictive practices such as requiring data localisation and formalise co-operation between regulators.

Biden has proposed a digital trade chapter in the Indo-Pacific economic framework, his plan to boost US economic ties in the region. But in a poor omen for proponents of a pact with the UK on digital trade, US business groups raised concerns that Biden is now “wavering in its promotion of high standard rules for digital trade” in IPEF, according to a letter sent last month.

Biden has been taking heat from the left for even considering more open digital trade around the world. Last month US Senator Elizabeth Warren, an influential Democrat from Massachusetts, accused the White House of allowing “Big Tech” companies to skew digital trade rules in a way that would restrict the US government’s ability to promote competition and regulate the sector.

“While we appreciate your commitment that digital trade negotiations will not conflict with the federal government’s active work on tech policy, we remain concerned that Big Tech companies are advocating for an approach to digital trade that will do just that,” Warren wrote in the letter, which was signed by six other Democratic lawmakers. The US trade representative and the White House’s National Security Council declined to comment.

One US official disputed any link between pressure from lawmakers and the Biden administration’s stance. “I would strongly push back on the notion that we are resisting a digital trade deal with the UK just because of Congress,” the official said.

Moreover, the US is not ruling out that some deeper digital ties could still be discussed in the coming months as the Biden and Sunak trade officials begin to shape specific areas for improvements in their economic relations.

Nigel Huddleston, the UK international trade minister, told reporters on the fringes of a Commonwealth trade ministers meeting in London this week that “constructive conversations” were still occurring on the digital trade.

One tech insider suggested that the UK could still secure an agreement from the US on digitising trade paperwork, for which legislation is already passing through the UK parliament. It is also possible that the US and UK could agree on deeper co-operation with regards to addressing the rise of artificial intelligence.

But these would fall far short of a digital trade agreement — leaving technology and trade lobbyists on both sides of the Atlantic alarmed at the lack of movement.

“[This] is yet another example of the [Biden] administration’s discouraging hands-off approach to trade. A US-UK trade agreement would be a timely opportunity to establish a new global benchmark for modern, comprehensive, and digitally focused trade in the 21st century,” said Jason Oxman, the chief executive of ITI, the Washington-based tech lobby group.

Jake Colvin, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a lobby group in Washington, said: “It’s no secret that the Biden administration is facing pressure to abandon US leadership on digital trade,” warning that such a position would only lead to “discrimination” against US companies “from Brussels to Beijing”.


‘Will regulate AI,’ says MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Digital India Bill

BusinessToday: Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship, Skill Development, Electronics & Technology, said consultations with stakeholders on the Digital India Bill will begin this month. The new personal data protection bill will also be introduced in Parliament soon.

Under PM Modi’s leadership, India is becoming a globally trusted partner, the minister added.

“In the manufacturing sector, we are seeing the emergence of world-class factories, huge investments and the creation of a big number of jobs,” he said.

While mentioning that India is witnessing the fastest degree of 5G rollout, Chandrasekhar said that we have a high degree of indigenous 5G components.

The government’s plans to regulate AI have been welcomed by some experts, who say that it is important to put in place safeguards to prevent AI from being used for malicious purposes. However, other experts have warned that too much regulation could stifle innovation in the field of AI.

His comments on the regulation of AI came after OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to India. While discussing the potential of artificial intelligence in India, he said that AI had been truly embraced in India.

He also talked about opportunities for AI in the country. Altman, who has urged the world to create regulations for AI, also discussed the same with PM Modi, in order to prevent misuse of the tech.

Earlier, Chandrasekhar has said that the country has its own experts and views on norms regarding AI, and that it is not necessary to have a single global body to regulate AI.

Chandrasekhar made the comments in response to a suggestion by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, that there should be a single global body to regulate AI. Altman argued that this would be necessary to ensure that AI is used for good and not for harm.

Chandrasekhar, however, said that India is not in favor of a single global body to regulate AI. He said that India has its own experts and views on norms regarding AI, and that it is important for countries to have a say in how AI is regulated.


DTA Webinar: Post-Brexit Push for Deregulation in Global Data Governance


The Post-Brexit Push For Deregulation in Global Data Governance

Wednesday, June 21, 2023 at 9AM ET (New York), 2PM BST (London), 3PM CET (Brussels)

Register now

Please join the Digital Trade Alliance for a timely webinar to discuss a new report about the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit strategy to promote deregulation in global digital trade and data governance through a number of new free trade agreements and domestic data protection reforms.

The UK government aims to become the world’s most attractive data hub and marketplace,shifting away from the EU data governance frameworks and towards a closer alignment with the United States and Indo-Pacific region. The UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and other recent UK agreements with countries in the region like Japan, Singapore and Australia prioritize digital trade and data flows over consumer protections.

To align with the data regimes of CPTPP countries, the UK is transforming its domestic data protection framework to depart from the EU approach in areas such as identifiable information, research, automated decisions, data rights, and business obligations. These reforms openly tilt the balance towards the needs of business by reducing consumer digital rights and could jeopardise the existing arrangements for free flow of data between the UK and the EU, which would cause major economic turmoil.


  • Javier Ruiz, Digital Trade Allianc
  • Ioannis Kouvakas, Privacy International
  • Alex Lawrence‑Archer, AWO
  • Deepika Yadav, Digital Trade Alliance (moderator)

Register to receive the link to join via zoom