In today’s globalised economy, cross-border data flow is fundamental to daily operations in nearly every sector and key to a functional global digital economy.

At an event, hosted by the Japan Business Council in Europe (JBCE) and the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation at CeBIT in the German city of Hannover, keynote speakers Kiyoshi Mori of Japan’s ministry for economy, trade and industry (METI), and Andreas Goerdeler of the German federal ministry for economic affairs and energy (BMWi), made the case that digital trade supports growth in business and society.

The session showcased the close EU-Japan relationship and the need for a fair and open framework for global digital trade.

Since 2013, the EU and Japan have been negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement/Free Trade Agreement (EPA/FTA), a potential source for upward convergence and harmonisation in setting rules for digital trade.  Panellists discussed the design of a framework for digital trade and agreed that EU-Japanese cooperation in this area can help define global standards for the digital economy.

Bruno Gencarelli, who heads the Unit for International Data Flows and Protection at the European Commission’s DG for Justice and Consumers, emphasised that the Commission supports cooperation on the data economy. Earlier in the day at CeBIT, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda, Andrus Ansip, and Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko, and Commissioner of the Japanese Personal Information Protection Commission, Haruhi Kumazawa, declared their intention to enhance EU-Japan cooperation to foster the development of the data economy.

Goerdeler agreed. He said: “Data flows are becoming an integral part of the digital economy. Countries need to work together to keep the global business environment open and prevent new forms of digital protectionism.”

The negotiations for an agreement on data flow between EU and Japan commenced with an initial assessment phase. Now, after some positive changes in the Japanese legislation and the approval of the new General Data Protection Regulation in Europe, a deal on this very issue seems possible.

Damir Filipovic, the director of the Digital Enterprise and consumer Policy at DIGITALEUROPE, encouraged Japan and the EU to continue efforts to foster digital trade. “We support cooperation to dismantle barriers and support business to realise a truly digital economy and greater innovation.”

Thorsten Höhnke, the head of Security FUJITSU EMEIA, emphasised the benefits of digital trade, including improved quality of goods and services and higher productivity thanks to new business models. He told to New Europe: “We as industry, we welcome the joint statement of the EU and Japan to support Data Protection and facilitate Data Flow as a tool to foster economic growth in both Countries.”

The possibility to have a secure and effective data flow between the two regions will allow industrial cooperation with benefits for both the industry and SMEs. This will bring to a substantial increase new jobs creation and will improve the quality of products and services. Companies will be allowed to securely exchange personal information to allow, for example, employees to have more jobs opportunities and international careers.

On the other side, exchanging data could allow more and more IoT (Internet of Things) applications and the possibility for companies to provide their services with trusted data flow mechanisms in new countries with no barriers.