The Government has made the bizarre claim that the digital and data provisions in the UK’s much-trumpeted trade deal with Japan go far beyond the agreement Tokyo signed with Brussels last year, which gave the country “adequacy” status, allowing it to freely exchange data with 27 EU states.
The UK has made much of the agreement, its first major post-Brexit trade deal, which will allow the free flow of data between the two countries.
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed in principle by the international trade secretary Liz Truss and Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi late last week. The Government estimates the deal will increase trade with Japan by £15.2bn.
The EU-Japan trade agreement, signed in July 2018, saw Japan joining an exclusive club of 11 non-EU contries, including Argentina, Israel, and New Zealand, who are considered to have the same level of personal privacy protections as Europe and is thought to be the world’s largest area of safe data flows.
However, the UK-Japan deal includes an agreement to ban data localisation. This requires the initial collection, processing and storage of data to occur first within the boundaries of a country and, in some cases, that data must be deleted from foreign systems before being removed from systems in the data subject’s home nation.
Without it, UK firms are free to operate in Japan without the need to build servers or data residencies in the country. Whitehall suggests this will encourage fintech firms to expand their operations to Japan.
Truss, who has previously said the Asia-Pacific region is a data goldmine, commented: “This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan as our first major post-Brexit trade deal. The agreement we have negotiated – in record time and in challenging circumstances – goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries.
“From our automotive workers in Wales to our shoemakers in the North of England, this deal will help build back better as we create new opportunities for people throughout the whole of the UK and help level up our country.
“Strategically, the deal is an important step towards joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and placing Britain at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements with like-minded friends and allies.”
TechUK chief executive Julian David said: “[The] agreement improves an already flourishing relationship between the UK and Japan tech sectors and creates significant opportunities for trade and investment for both our countries.
“Since 2018, in partnership with JEITA, we have run a successful UK-Japan Tech Forum to enable our members to develop a closer relationship with Japan and we look forward to working with the Government and our partners in Japan to assist the tech sector in taking full opportunity of this.”
However, there is still no news from UK ministers how a no deal Brexit – which looks increasingly likely – will prevent the UK’s £240bn digital and data economy falling off the cliff edge.
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