miércoles, 4 de noviembre de 2015

The #Digital #TTIP : the unworkable but compulsory agreement

The European Union is currently involved in the completion of the Digital Single Market. Overcoming the barriers to build up the digital version of the Single Market through the consolidation of the 28 national digital markets is a must in a global economy underpinned on information technology. To add some complexity to the Digital Single Market project, it should be developed at the same time that the projects that aim to connect the Digital Single Market with the digital global economy. US is at the same time main trade partner of the EU and the first producer of digital products and services, so it is crystal clear the prioritisation of linking the Digital Single Market with the US digital market. Therefore, the TTIP presents apparently a unique opportunity to set up the link between EU and US digital markets

Besides the complexity of building at the same time the Digital Single Market,  it should be asked the feasibility of developing the digital chapter of the TTIP. This is the aim of the more comprehensive analysis about the digital chapter of the TTIP that  I have read so far, "Telecommunications and Internet Services: The digital side of the TTIP". The report summarises the different positions of the US and EU in the most controversial digital issues: Net neutrality, competition policy applied to digital services, standardisation of digital products and personal data protection.

The author defends that while it could be possible an agreement on digital products, it could be more difficult an agreement on digital services. Without spoiling the deserved reading of the report, we can resume the differences in the following points:

  • Net neutrality: a more flexible approach in Europe towards the existence of prioritisation mechanisms in order to permit specialised services over the Internet infrastructure.
  • Competition policy: a more interventionist approach in Europe to solve the competition cases raised up by mergers and acquisitions and the existence of single-firm market.
  • Digital Platforms: a growing trend in Europe to abandon the "mere conduit" approach in the dealing with digital platforms that it is seen in US as a protectionist attitude.
  • Personal data protection: a European vision of personal data protection as a civil right while the US vision is closer to see personal data protection as a consumer right. 
In another interesting paper published by the CEPS, they analysed the possible consequences of the TTIP for consumer protection framework. As ICT and digital product and services are a growing part of our daily life as consumers, the document includes a small specific study of the impact on the protection of the digital consumer. While we can expect some benefits regarding the protection of the consumer of digital products (e.g. reduction of manufacturing costs, better interoperability of products, ...), it is not the shame story regarding digital services. The differences on the approach towards personal data protection on both sides of the Atlantic poses challenges to the free flow of data which is the cornerstone of digital trade.

The question is if all these differences make impossible an agreement and which would the consequences of not reaching an agreement on the digital side of the TTIP. Perhaps, the best way to answer both questions is starting by the second one. With a growing Asian digital market which have its size limits still so far away to be reached and beyond the size of the sum EU and US markets, not reaching an agreement on the digital chapter of TTIP may mean the future irrelevance of the separate EU and US digital markets. And, therefore, the answer to the first question is also obvious: the agreement on the digital side of the TTIP is a question of survival for US and EU digital market, not a question of feasibility. Perhaps, this is the reason why there are some dramatic calls for an agreement on the digital TTIP


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