CPTPP, Digital, UK Digital

Week in London : All eyes on CPTPP

All eyes have been on the CPTPP this week.

London appoints trade envoy to Japan as CPTPP accession talks progress

The United Kingdom has sought to bolster its trade relationship with Japan by appointing an official trade envoy to the Asian country.

Greg Clark, a Conservative MP who was UK business secretary under former prime minister Theresa May, was appointed to the unpaid role on Wednesday (4 May). Clark’s nomination was announced as prime minister Boris Johnson met his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, for talks in London.

The appointment has perhaps greater significance than usual in light of the fact that Japan, the largest economy in the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership, is currently chairing the UK-CPTPP accession group.

This body is assessing the UK’s preparedness to accede to the CPTPP.

In February, it was reported that the accession review process had moved to its second and final stage reviewing market access offers between the UK and CPTPP members. This follows successful completion of the initial legislative screening process confirming the UK’’s suitability as a potential member.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss last week reiterated her belief that the UK would be confirmed as a new CPTPP member by the end of this year.

Clark’s appointment as trade envoy to Japan “takes the total to 37 envoys covering 77 markets across the globe”, the UK department for international trade said.

Promoting good digital governance – Britain’s gift to CPTPP?

The UK could use its position as a future member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership to “improve digital governance” within the Asia-Pacific region, according to a new blog post by a UK trade specialist.

Britain is ranked higher than any Asia-Pacific country on questions of digital governance, and would be well placed to encourage its new trade partners to strengthen these policy areas, the article said.

“It would be in the UK’s interest to advocate that Asia-Pacific countries promote a regulatory regime that can enhance trust,” said Minako Morita-Jaeger, Policy Research Fellow at the UK Trade Policy Observatory, in a UKTPO blog posted on Wednesday (4 May).

Shortcomings in digital regulatory framework

Morita-Jaeger’s comments offer an interesting perspective on the digital and data issues in the UK’s ongoing accession negotiations with the CPTPP countries.

The Asia-Pacific region is often depicted as a thrusting global leader in digital trade, with CPTPP members Singapore, Australia and Chile having pioneered multi-party trade agreements in this area with their Digital Economy Partnership Agreement signed in 2020.

But Morita-Jaeger cited figures produced by the International Institute for Management Development which ranked the UK first among a group encompassing the UK and Asia-Pacific countries in terms of digital governance.

This index is assessed based on how a country’s national regulatory regime scores in areas like trust around data use and re-use, and the comprehensiveness of its legislation in this area.

On this basis, Singapore and Chile both ranked well down a list headed by the UK – with New Zealand in sixth place.

“The UK could encourage its trade partners to strengthen these policy areas,” Morita-Jaeger said.

Addressing divergence across CPTPP countries

The UKTPO academic also maintained that the UK could help in ‘levelling up’ both digital governance and digital competitiveness in developing countries in particular.

“Although the e-commerce chapter in the CPTPP promotes free cross-border data flow, a digital divide and divergence of digital governance exist among CPTPP members,” Morita-Jaeger said.

She also suggested that technical cooperation and capacity building to enhance legal frameworks and institution building could help develop the digital sectors of countries in the wider ASEAN region, such as India – with whom the UK is currently negotiating a bilateral FTA.

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