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Expert Insights

03 February 2021

A Triumph for Digital Trade? – Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

Trade in digital products and services has become essential to the UK economy, even more so now with the current Covid-19 pandemic in full force. With the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union the country has become an independent trading nation and the UK are looking for new ways to provide a regulatory environment in which international trade can flourish. This can be seen with the recent entry into the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 23 October 2020, which boasts big benefits for digital trade. In the most recent step in international trade, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss spoke to ministers in Japan and New Zealand on 1 February 2021 to request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The agreement

The CPTPP was entered into force in December 2018 and is made up of parties from 11 nations with fast-growing markets and major economies, including Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam, covering roughly 13% of global GDP.

Membership to the agreement will bring benefits for modern digital trade rules. Chapter 13 specifically focuses on telecommunication, with CPTPP parties committing to ensure that their telecommunications suppliers will provide key services in their territory, and to transparent and non-discriminatory regulation, covering seven main areas:

  1. allowing suppliers to have access to, and use of, public telecommunication services on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis;
  2. specific rules for suppliers who have the ability to influence the market as a result of their control over essential facilities;
  3. regulation benefitting the long term interests of end users, and transparency of licencing procedures and administration of policies;
  4. the ability for competent authorities enforcement of specified obligations, and recourse of businesses to resolve disputes;
  5. working cooperatively to promote reasonable rates for international mobile roaming services;
  6. promoting international telecommunication standards through the work of relevant international organisations;
  7. a Committee on Telecommunications to review and monitor the implementation of the chapter, considering this alongside the ever changing digital landscape.

Timeline

The CPTPP commission will now determine whether to commence the formal accession process, and if so they will establish a working group. The UK will then present to the working group how they will comply with the CPTPP obligations and submit their market access offers to the group, which will be negotiated. Finally the existing parties to the CPTPP will decide by consensus whether to approve the UK’s accession.

Julian David, the CEO of techUK summarised the position of the technology sector with these words “Today marks an important step in the UK’s path to developing a modern trade policy that creates new opportunities for the UK tech sector.”

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