A new digital economy collaboration in the Indo-Pacific negotiating digital trade in the Austra...


The Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) presents a significant and unique opportunity for India and Australia to strengthen their digital trade relationship. Although certain areas – including cross-border data flows/data localization, customs duties on electronic transmissions, and non-discrimination of digital products – appear to pose difficulties for the ongoing negotiations, both countries can converge elsewhere. For instance, disciplines on digital trade facilitation, online consumer protection, cybersecurity, spam, artificial intelligence, etc., can create a robust, trustworthy, and efficient framework for bilateral digital trade. Further, disciplines on trade in services can boost digital trade flows between the parties, and address data localization measures in service sectors where countries have offered relevant commitments. Australia can incentivize India’s participation in digital trade negotiations in various ways, including by committing to holistic programmes on digital development and inclusion, liberalizing Mode 4 supply for talented Indian Information Technology (IT) professionals, and instituting a robust mechanism for regulatory dialogues and cooperation. Economic opportunities aside, a high-quality digital trade chapter in the India-Australia negotiations holds strategic and geopolitical importance, especially in countering China’s growing digital influence, and promoting more digital trust and integration in the Indo- Pacific.