Wednesday, 19.04.2023

Primers on India and EU Digital Trade Outlooks

Clarifying conversations between India and the EU on digital trade

The EU identifies ‘digital transformation’ as a key lever for medium-term and long-term sustainable development. Consequently, espousing the European market’s comprehensive digital agenda is a trade negotiation/priority.  Broadly, the EU’s goal seems to be to secure primacy for the Union in digital trade, by harmonising internal polices and the global rules-based order. The EU is therefore likely to push for the introduction of digital trade rules at global governance institutions and will endeavour to play a central role in creating them.  In addition, it also plans to increase bilateral engagement on digital trade with “like-minded partners”. On data flows in particular, it will follow an “open but assertive approach” to ensure businesses benefit from the free flow of data, subject to policy objectives related to security, privacy, and law enforcement.

Our paper A Quantitative Evaluation of the Balance Between Values and Interests in the European Union’s Digital Trade Commitments explores documents and policies established by the EU, including its 2021 trade policy review, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, the EU's e-commerce proposal to the WTO and the European Digital Strategy – to map the key contours of the EU digital trade agenda, and what it means for prospective trade partners like India.

India sees the digital economy as a means to leapfrog myriad developmental concerns, and to leverage its existing information technology and services prowess. Consequently, it aims to become a trillion-dollar digital economy over the next few years, and it has begun to articulate its digital trade goals via this prism. India has committed to ideals such as an open and multistakeholder internet in international forums linked to cybersecurity and internet governance. Despite these, the country stands against any official negotiations on e-commerce at the WTO, and rejected Japan’s proposal for Data Free Flow with Trust at the Osaka G20 Summit. It is therefore yet to adopt a comprehensive and consistent strategy towards digital trade. Additionally, India’s forays into bilateral trade agreements with a digital trade component are very recent. The country signed an FTA with the UAE with a digital trade chapter. However, the commitments in this chapter are mostly on a ‘best-effort basis’ and do not highlight a clear digital trade strategy.

Our paper A Primer on India's Digital Trade Policy reviews India’s positions on issues linked to digital trade that reflect its positions taken at international forums such as the UN GGE and the OEWG; in plurilateral groups such as the G20 and the IPEF; as well as in bilateral agreements. These insights could help anticipate the country’s future approaches to digital trade. We will also briefly examine areas where India’s positions may remain unclear owing to competing domestic policy priorities. 


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