Digitrade Digest #14

US, Canada, Mexico trade talks, South Korea to join DEPA?, latest on Whatsapp's new privacy policy, UK trade talks

The Digitrade Digest delivers the latest developments in global digital trade right to your inbox every week. To get the news as it happens, follow us on Twitter @DigiTradeDaily

North America

U.S., Canada, Mexico hold 'robust' trade deal talks, downplay differences

Reuters: Over two days of bilateral and joint virtual meetings, the three ministers brought up long-standing complaints and ones that have cropped up over the past year, with Tai chiding Canada over a proposed digital tax and Ottawa's allocation of dairy quotas.

Ng told reporters that she raised Canada's concerns about "unwarranted and unfair" U.S. lumber tariffs and vowed to defend the sector's interests. On Monday, she brought up U.S. "Buy American" restrictions on infrastructure and public procurement projects.

Mexico raised differences between the U.S. interpretation of the USMCA's automotive content rules and the more flexible Mexican and Canadian interpretations, said Mexican Deputy Economy Minister Luz Maria de la Mora, adding that the countries would continue to discuss the matter.

She also said Mexico asked the United States to review its ground transportation rules to ensure that Mexican truckers had access to the U.S. market - a longtime complaint from Mexico City.

But those issues were not mentioned in the joint statement, which focused on cooperation to implement new labor, environmental and digital economy rules and reaching out to underrepresented groups.

The Opportunities are Vast in a Potential U.S.-Kenya Free Trade Agreement

U.S. Chambers of Commerce: In the digital trade space, a key concern is how the two governments regulate it. In 2020, Kenya passed a digital services tax, while the U.S. has been a vocal opponent of countries imposing unilateral digital taxes.

“Predictability is absolutely essential,” said Raghav Prasad, Mastercard’s Division President for Sub Saharan Africa, and is “critical for the digital economy.”

Solving this creates vast opportunities in the region. “The US-Kenya FTA will serve as a blueprint for further U.S. agreements on the continent,” Prasad added.

Latin America

WhatsApp delays enforcement of new privacy rules in Brazil

ZDNet:  The full enforcement of WhatsApp's new privacy policy has been delayed in Brazil as local authorities investigate the data privacy implications to users of the app's new rules.

The decision follows a series of discussions between the owner of the messaging app Facebook and Brazil's National Data Protection Authority (ANPD), national consumer body Senacon, the Federal Prosecution Service and competition watchdog Cade. Under the agreement, WhatsApp users will still be able to utilize the service and all its features for three months before agreeing to the new policy.

In a statement, the Brazilian authorities noted that "WhatsApp has informed that it will not close any account, and that no user in Brazil will lose access to the application's features in the 90-day period after May 15 as a result of the enforcement of the new privacy policy and the new terms of service"


S. Korea seeks to join DEPA, promote digital trade

The Korea Herald:  South Korea held a public hearing on Tuesday on its bid to join a global pact on the digital trade sector that covers a wider array of issues beyond conventional free trade agreements.

The hearing came as South Korea plans to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), which centers on expanding ties in the digital trade segment among its members, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The DEPA, which currently covers Singapore, New Zealand and Chile, came into effect in January this year.

Through the pact, the member countries are expected to speed up the growth of the financial technology and e-payment segments.

South Asia


PIB: The two Prime Ministers launched an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ (ETP) to unleash the trade potential between the 5th and 6th largest economies of the world and by setting an ambitious target of more than doubling bilateral trade by 2030. As part of the ETP, India and the UK agreed on a roadmap to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced FTA, including consideration of an Interim Trade Agreement for delivering early gains. The enhanced trade partnership between India and UK will generate several thousands of direct and indirect jobs in both the countries.

The UK is India's second largest partner in research and innovation collaborations. A new India-UK ‘Global Innovation Partnership’ was announced at the Virtual Summit that aims to support the transfer of inclusive Indian innovations to select developing countries, starting with Africa. Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation on new and emerging technologies, including Digital and ICT products, and work on supply chain resilience. They also agreed to strengthen defence and security ties, including in the maritime, counter-terrorism and cyberspace domains.

India tells WhatsApp to withdraw its new policy terms

Techcrunch: The Indian government is not pleased with WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. The nation’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has once again directed the Facebook-owned company to withdraw the planned update.

In a letter to WhatsApp on Tuesday — which was read to TechCrunch — MeitY has given the popular instant messaging provider seven days to offer a “satisfactory” response. Failure to do so, the ministry warned, will prompt lawful measures.

“In fulfilment of its sovereign responsibility to protect the rights and interests of Indian citizens, the government of India will consider various options available to it under laws in India,” the letter reads.

The letter comes at a time when the ministry is also pursuing a legal case on this matter in the Delhi High Court — and the second-largest internet market is also conducting an antitrust probe on the subject.

This is not the first time New Delhi has issued a notice to WhatsApp about the new privacy terms. Earlier this year, in a similar letter, the Indian government had expressed “grave concerns” about the planned update.

Following backlash from several governments and users, WhatsApp earlier this year delayed enforcement of the privacy update by three months — to May 15. Last week, it somewhat relaxed the deadline, though users need to still need to comply to access some basic features.


UK prepares to launch new trade deal negotiations with Canada and Mexico

UK.GOV: The UK is to begin negotiations for upgraded trade deals with Canada and Mexico this year focused on creating even greater opportunities for UK businesses in industries of the future such as digital, data and services.

A call for input will ask for views from the public, businesses and other stakeholders on what the UK’s ambitions should be for these free trade agreements.

Building on the deals signed in 2020, which secured tariff-free exports on 98% and 88% of goods to Canada and Mexico respectively, this next generation of trade deals will be better tailored to the UK economy and provide the opportunity to set new benchmarks in areas like digital trade, climate and women’s economic empowerment.

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The Digitrade Digest is a weekly publication of the Digital Rights Program at Public Citizen.