G-20 Summit

World leaders sign up to Osaka Track on digital rules

The declaration was adopted by 24 signatories, including China, the European Union, the United States and Singapore, at the Group of 20 leaders' summit.
The declaration was adopted by 24 signatories, including China, the European Union, the United States and Singapore, at the Group of 20 leaders' summit. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

OSAKA • World leaders yesterday adopted the Osaka Track to formulate rules on digital governance under the concept of "data free flow with trust".

The declaration was adopted by 24 signatories, including China, the European Union, the United States and Singapore, at the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit.

Under the Osaka Declaration, the leaders pledged, among other things, their commitment to international rule-making on trade-related aspects of e-commerce at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India did not take part in the session, while Egypt, Indonesia and South Africa abstained.

Japanese Foreign Press Secretary Takeshi Osuga said later: "There are different positions and views with regard to rule-making on the digital economy, but the first step to take is to promote negotiations at the WTO on e-commerce."

Singapore has been a staunch advocate of the need for rules to support transactions across borders and industries, as well as to address concerns about privacy and data security.

The call for free flow of data is not new, but Japan is stressing the "trust" element behind the cross-border movement of data.

The crux of this idea, first raised by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum in January, is that "trust" can be assured only with adequate protections for personal information and intellectual property, and with strong cyber-security measures.

 
 
 

Yesterday, he stressed that innovation was the locomotive for economic growth and to address social issues such as ageing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying that data is the equivalent of "what oil is to the industrial economy", said: "We need to leverage the role of the digital economy as a catalyst to drive the integration of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence with the real economy, so as to cultivate new drivers of growth."

US President Donald Trump agreed digital rules are key, but stressed the need to "ensure the resilience and security of our 5G networks, which are essential to our shared safety and prosperity".

He did not elaborate, but the US has put Chinese technology giant Huawei and several other Chinese firms on an export blacklist over national security concerns.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'World leaders sign up to Osaka Track on digital rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe