EU needs a digital strategy with strong data protection rules
Digital trade and economy require rules that stimulate growth, help EU firms, but protect rights and share benefits evenly, MEPs say in a resolution adopted on Thursday.
Offering their inputs for a fair and rules-based international digital trade environment and advocating for an EU strategy, members of the International Trade Committee have put forward a number of proposal in a resolution that was backed by 33 votes with 5 abstentions.
Their key suggestions:
- EU, as the world’s biggest exporter of services, should set standards for international rules and agreements on digital trade flows, based on three elements: (1) ensuring market access for digital goods and services in third countries, (2) making sure that trade rules create real benefits for consumers and (3) promoting respect for fundamental rights,
- The Commission should speed up the so-called adequacy decisions (decision establishing that a third country provides a level of protection of personal data comparable to the EU) as the EU has such agreements with only 4 of its 20 largest trading partners,
- new rules for cross-border data transfers need to be drawn up and incorporated in EU trade agreements with such provisions being part of all new and recently launched trade negotiations,
- unjustified data localisation requirements in free trade agreements must be prohibited, as these non-tariff barriers seriously hamper opportunities for European businesses,
- the Commission ought to put forward its position on cross-border data transfers, unjustified data localisation requirements and data protection safeguards in trade negotiations in line with the European Parliament's position, and
- the EU must come up with social flanking measures as the digitisation of the economy is an engine for growth, but could also disrupt current jobs and lead to precarious working conditions.
EP Rapporteur Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL) said: "Time is running out. We risk ending up as a rules-takers instead of rules-makers if we do not act now. The EU should take the lead in shaping values-based rules for digital trade. These rules should help to improve digital rights through provisions on net neutrality, forced data localisation, encryption and intermediary liability protections in trade agreements. That way, they can have a strongly beneficial impact on the protection of freedom of speech.”
The full House will vote on the resolution during the December plenary.