UK-India tech sets out trade agenda

The two largest trade bodies representing the tech industries of India and the UK have set out on what they want to see on data transfers included in the free trade agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated between the two nations.

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NASSCOM and techUK, in conjuncion with the UK-India Business Council (UKIBC), have published a joint position paper on 'Enabling Data Transfers for India-UK Digital Trade'.

The aim, said techUK, was to promote data protection in both countries "while enabling free flow of data in the UK-India corridor".

Recommendations in the paper are intended to let ministers know in both New Delhi and London what needs to be included in an FTA to reform domestic regimes on personal data protection and cross-border data transfers, and on securing a data adequacy agreement.

Julian David, CEO of techUK, said: "Digital and data services are going to drive the future trading partnership between the UK and India, and it is therefore important that cross-border data flows with an adequate data protection regime are central to future bilateral trade relations."The launch of UK-India FTA negotiations offers the opportunity to deepen the bilateral tech partnership and work towards a data adequacy partnership.”

Will India and UK provide data protection in the FTA?

The organisations are calling on both governments to commit to the protection of personal information via adequate and comprehensive legal regimes, including a dedicated digital trade chapter in the proposed FTA.

Such a chapter, the report says, should cover topics including protection of privacy and personal information, international data flows, paperless trading, online consumer protection, cooperation on fintech, data innovation and artificial intelligence.

TechUK added: "Regarding domestic data protection and transfer regimes, the paper offers suggestions on the specific areas for both countries to prioritize as they finalise their respective domestic legal regimes on data protection and transfers."
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The Indian tech industry, added techUK, had become a significant investor in the UK and had played a leading role in achieving India’s position as the second-largest source of foreign direct investment in Britain.

It does so, said the organisation, by employing and upskilling local talent, contributing to the UK’s corporate competitiveness, and creating economic growth and other positive spill-overs from a thriving digital sector.

Conversely, the paper pointed out, more than a hundred British Capability Centres exist in India "leveraging India’s digital talent, innovative capabilities, and scale to drive enterprise competitiveness, by solving complex problems and managing risk".

Total trade in goods and services between the UK and India was £24.3 billion last year, according to Department of Trade and Industry estimates.

The digital world is growing and continues to benefit the large, SME and start up businesses.

Meghna Misra-Elder, associate director of UKIBC, said: “Digital technology, data and the exchange of information are increasingly important, across all services sectors, in global trade and therefore are essential to services powerhouses like the UK and India.

"It is vital that there is a India-UK data adequacy partnership to spur cross-border data transfers, innovation and collaboration. We urge the governments to use the FTA negotiations to accelerate this data adequacy partnership. ”

Shivendra Singh, vice-president and head of global trade at NASSCOM, added that technology had taken up the centre stage and would play a significant role in doubling the bilateral trade between India and UK.

"Given digital revenues will be the lynchpin of this growth story, it is important that we are able to build convergence on data and digital. It will hugely benefit the large, SME and start-up ecosystem,” he said.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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