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Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT)

On June 28, Japan will host the 2019 G20 summit in Osaka. G20 is a grouping of developed and developing countries. The members include India, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, EU, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the UK and US.

One of the key agenda that the host will raise is advocating a system of “Data Free Flow with Trust” (DFFT)

Japan admitted that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has failed to keep up with the speed with which digital data is changing the world economy. The DFFT which is to make WTO relevant as a guardian of free and fair international trade is an approach that attempts to allow the free flow of data under rules upon which all can rely. 

In an opinion piece by the Prime Minister of Japan on 20 June 2019, he acknowledged that the great supply chains driving the global economy for many years now are anchored in the ASEAN region. The region’s economies have benefited from an environment in which people and goods flow in and out freely. It is precisely this freedom that accounts for ASEAN’s dynamism and growing prosperity.

In an earlier meeting of the Trade Ministers of the G20 in preparation for the upcoming summit, the members recognise there is a need to enhance investment in infrastructure focusing on ICT, including in developing countries, to facilitate their participation and to share the benefits of digitalisation worldwide in the digital economy.

It will be interesting to see how each of the countries or bloc that have passed / amended their Data Protection Act or passed new Cybersecurity Legislation reacts and participate in this initiative. All these countries have adopted a stance with the passing of these acts of protecting the privacy and the economic values that can be derived from the data of their citizens instead of letting other countries benefiting from it economically and solely. It will be a fine balancing act akin to walking on a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.

The comfort if any, that this initiative has, was that Japan 'walked the talk' when in 2018 it signed an agreement with EU for its Data protection regime to be aligned with the GDPR. The mutual agreement created the world's largest area of safe data flows as it is now.

However, with the current paranoia exhibited by mostly the developed countries in the name of National Security, the impetus to forge ahead with this initiative could be very much limited.


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