Digitrade Digest #13

WhatsApp privacy update; Indo-pacific trade; digital services taxes; UK & NZ trade agreement; India ASEAN digital trade engagement

WhatsApp relaxes deadline for accepting its new privacy policy

The Verge: You’ll still have to accept it eventually to use the service

In a new statement posted on its website, WhatsApp says users won’t lose any functionality if they fail to accept its new privacy policy by May 15th. “No one will have their accounts deleted or lose functionality of WhatsApp on May 15th because of this update,” the FAQ now reads.

That’s different from what the page originally said when it was posted in February, when it warned that failing to accept the new terms by the May deadline would mean users would lose functionality. “We’ve extended the effective date to May 15th,” the page said at the time. “If you haven’t accepted by then, WhatsApp will not delete your account. However, you won’t have full functionality of WhatsApp until you accept. For a short time, you’ll be able to receive calls and notifications, but won’t be able to read or send messages from the app [emphasis added].”

Brazilian authorities urged to act on WhatsApp privacy update

Zdnet: Consumer protection body Idec notified several organizations with unanswered questions over privacy rights and data protection.

Brazilian authorities were urged to act on WhatsApp's forthcoming privacy update, amid concerns over privacy rights and data protection.

Consumer rights non-profit organization Idec has notified various governmental organizations, including the National Data Protection Authority, the National Consumer Secretariat and the Federal Prosecution Service with a request for joint action to prevent irregularities stemming from the changes, set to take effect from May 15.

How to advance Biden's plan for inclusion, climate and innovation in the Indo-Pacific

The Hill: In its first 100 days, the Biden administration has successfully conveyed to the world that the United States is back on the global stage. Using well-sequenced and high-profile outreach, it has displayed a reinvigorated focus on repairing alliances and building partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region.

The harder work of substantive international action still looms ahead, however, and will require the Biden team to back its welcome words with concrete actions — particularly as it seeks to advance its priorities on inclusive growth, climate change and innovation. To succeed, the administration will need to creatively utilize a wide array of existing international and regional platforms, while also building new coalitions of like-minded countries. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum can and should be an important part of this effort.

USTR begins hearings on digital services taxes today

Politico: EUROPE’S DIGITAL SERVICE TAXES IN THE CROSSHAIRS: USTR’s potential action against Austria, India, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the U.K. has its roots in the Trump administration.

But U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in one of her first moves after taking office in March, issued a set of reports that found each of the six countries had adopted a digital service tax that unfairly hurts U.S. commercial interests.

The Trump administration targeted three other countries — Brazil, the Czech Republic and Indonesia — as well as the 27-nation EU, for tariff retaliation under a trade law provision known as Section 301. Tai terminated those cases because they had not yet adopted or implemented any digital service taxes, but reserved the right to revisit the issue if they did.

Amazon, Facebook Lobby Groups Urge Digital-Tax End, OECD Deal

Bloomberg: Lobbying groups representing the biggest U.S. Internet-based companies called on the U.S. to negotiate for the removal of digital-service taxes charged by nations ranging from the U.K. to India, with at least one endorsing retaliatory tariffs.

The levies imposed by Austria, India, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the U.K. cost American companies $3.1 billion, Rachael Stelly, a lawyer for the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said at a U.S. Trade Representative hearing on Monday. The group’s members include some of the biggest online firms including Amazon.com Inc. to Facebook Inc.

The hearing is the first in a series planned for this week as USTR weighs whether to hit the nations with retaliatory tariffs under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 that could total almost $1 billion annually. Goods entering the U.S. -- ranging from Italian ties and Spanish shoes to Turkish Kilim rugs and British beauty supplies -- could face tariffs of as much as 25% annually.

How Nations Can Build Online Trust Through Trade

Barrons: In 2018, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres  argued that the world is suffering from a “trust deficit disorder.” He described a vicious circle where malicious acts in cyberspace polarize communities, reinforce tribalism, and diminish trust among states. The only way to mitigate these problems, he argued, was to encourage cooperation among countries and internet stakeholders off and online.

Three years later, the trust deficit only seems to be growing. Since the onset of the global pandemic, individuals, companies, and governments have become increasingly dependent upon the internet and data-driven services to work, learn, and socialize. These new services helped sustain the global economy and allowed us to live more productive lives. Yet because many of these services are built on the collection, analysis, and monetization of personal data, they also simultaneously threaten our privacy, autonomy, individual rights, and democracy. The situation has gotten so bad that the U.S. National Intelligence Council warned that in the future, “privacy and anonymity may effectively disappear by choice or government mandate, as all aspects of personal and professional lives are tracked by global networks, Real-time, manufactured, or synthetic media could further distort truth and reality, destabilizing societies at a scale and speed that dwarfs current disinformation challenges.”

UK and NZ want Free Trade Agreement across the line as soon as possible

RNZ: British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke says the United Kingdom and New Zealand are committed to accelerating the process of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Photo: 123rf.com

The UK is keen to have FTAs with 80 percent of its current trading partners as part of its post-Brexit strategy, with its sights also set on joining the Trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP).

Clarke told Morning Report that Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O'Connor and the UK's Secretary of State for International Trade spoke of wanting to make progress "as fast as we can".

"Actually to have got as far as we have after just four rounds is actually pretty good going," she said, adding that the next round of talks were scheduled for June and July.

India’s ASEAN engagement needs a digital push

The Hindu Business Line: Set to become one of world’s top five digital economies, the Asian bloc presents an opportunity for businesses and investors

India’s desire to enhance its commercial and trade relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is well-known. At the last two India-ASEAN summits, in 2019 and 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated ASEAN’s centrality to India’s ‘Act-East’ policy and called for enhanced connectivity between India and ASEAN to boost ties stating that a strong and prosperous ASEAN was in New Delhi’s interest.

In August 2020, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goel stated that if India and ASEAN could work together to resolve their differences and harness their trade potential, a bilateral trade target of $300 billion could be realised.