Conversation on cross border data flows influences global economic and trade policies

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Internet offers limitless possibilities where information can move freely and as quickly as the speed of light. Yet from national security to copyright protection to protecting personal data, there are growing calls for regulation both in the United States and abroad. The prospect that some countries are imposing restrictive practices is an important area of focus for the Annenberg-Dreier Commission at Sunnylands.

The Cross Border Data Flows Project is a partnership between the Brookings Institution and the Annenberg-Dreier Commission. It was launched in May 2013 to address the economic importance of cross border data flows. The Commission’s goals—which include developing a set of principles to preserve and encourage the free flow of data throughout the Greater Pacific and other regions—have clearly impacted current discussions on data flows in a variety of ways.
“It [the commission’s work] brought together stakeholders representing a range of interests not only in the IT sector but in the services sectors, manufacturing sectors, as well as thought leaders and government officials,” says Joshua Meltzer, a fellow in Global Economy and Development at The Brookings Institution and an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. “So it demonstrated the importance of this issue for economies broadly, that is, not just the IT sector which I think was significant, but also helped raise awareness about the economic importance of this issue for economies not only in the United States but in Asia as well.”

Drawing on the Commission’s work, a new Brookings Institution report was released on October 22, 2014 with a public program in Washington, D.C. “Global Implications of Data Flows between the U.S. and EU,” was convened by Meltzer with experts who addressed the extent of data flows between the U.S. and the EU, the importance of data flows for transatlantic services, trade, and transatlantic investments. And, more broadly, the importance of data flows for the U.S and EU trade globally.
“Data flows are important globally and what the U.S. and EU do, how they regulate data flows, is going to certainly matter for transatlantic trade and is going to have global implications,” says Meltzer.

For more about the Brookings event, including audio and a transcript click here.
“A mantra we have for the Annenberg-Dreier Commission is to encourage the free flow of goods, services, capital, information, ideas, and people,” says David Dreier, a former U.S. Congressman and the Commission’s chairman. “Clearly in the wake of the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden, there are countries looking to use this as an opportunity to limit the flow of data. Our argument is that regardless of who the leader is in virtually any country, making sure that people are fed and clothed and have a roof over their head is a priority. And undermining the flow of data jeopardizes the ability for that to take place.”

He notes that the commission’s goal is to create a set of recommendations that would be implemented on a global basis.

“It’s not going to be easy, it’s a real challenge,” he says. “But these are not going to be dictates on our part and we would hope that as trade negotiators from the United States and other parts of the world look to deal with this issue that we will be able to provide them with a set of guidelines.”