techUK has launched its report on future UK international digital trade policy, A Vision for UK Digital Trade Policy. This report sets out an ambitious agenda for the UK to shape global digital trade policy.

The UK is one of the world’s most significant tech sectors, receiving £6.3bn of venture capital investment in 2018, and ranking fourth in the world for scaleup investment after US, China and India. To ensure this continued success the UK will need an effective new digital trade strategy.

The UK has a unique opportunity to set a new course in its trade policy and design its approach from the ground up. This will be a digital century and the report sets out why the Government must put digital at the heart of its trade policy.

As one the world’s largest digital economies the UK has benefited from the rapid expansion of global digital trade which is now estimated to be worth more than $25 trillion. To take full advantage of the digitisation of the global economy and improve access to new markets, UK trade policy must become digital by default and provide a counterweight to growing trends towards digital protectionism. The recommendations in techUK’s report provide a roadmap for achieving this.

The report sets out 12 business-backed principals that the UK should follow to develop a successful digital trade policy, while also setting out practical steps to support the expansion of digital trade through UK international trade policy. These include:

Setting the UK’s trade policy as digital-by-default. By seeking to remove duties and taxes on low value e-commerce sales while also seeking to expand paperless trading and e-signatures to reduce trade costs across global supply chains.

Opposing protectionism and acting at the multilateral level. The UK should take a tough line to oppose data localisation and the forced transfer of source codes in exchange for market access. As well as enshrining these provisions in its own FTAs the UK should also act at the multilateral level to support an agenda of liberalising digital trade. This should include supporting the liberalisation of services trade and throwing UK diplomatic clout behind achieving a positive outcome on e-commerce in the Joint Strategic Initiative (JSI) negotiations at the WTO.

Supporting the free flow of data and regulated access to data sets; ensuring that data can flow across borders is the essential bedrock of digital trade. The UK should ensure that it enables the cross-border flow of data in future trade agreements without compromising data protection standards and ensure that regulated access to data is facilitated.

Minister of State Nigel Adams said:

This is an insightful report as we look to shape our future global digital trade policy.

“The tech sector in the UK goes from strength to strength, attracting record levels of investment in 2019. We are determined to keep up this momentum and ensure we have the right conditions for it to continue to grow and succeed on a global stage."

The full report can be read here.