In 2022, the European Union announced the creation of Digital Partnerships with three Asian countries: Japan, South Korea and Singapore. This is in line with the EU’s Digital Compass strategy which seeks to make the European Union the most connected continent by 2030. The European Commission is expanding its connections between Europe and the rest of the world to address the digital divide and further develop a sustainable digital economy with trusted partners.
Below we set out the key points from the Digital Partnerships that the European Commission has announced with Japan, South Korea and Singapore, respectively.
EU-Japan Digital Partnership
During the EU-Japan Summit organised on May 12, 2022, the European Union and Japan concluded the EU-Japan Digital Partnership, the first digital cooperation initiative to advance economic growth and provide a safe and inclusive space to solve digital issues. This effort furthers the “Data Free Flow with Trust” agenda, aimed at facilitating safe and secure cross-border data flows.
The EU-Japan Partnership will also focus on the following areas:
- 5G/6G technologies;
- Ethical considerations for Artificial Intelligence (“AI”);
- Global supply chains in the semiconductor industry;
- Green data infrastructures and data innovation;
- Development of digital skills for private and public sectors; and
- Facilitation of digital trade and application of global interoperable standards.
As part of the common vision, the Digital Partnership identified a number of key action items, as follows:
- Collaborating on the development of innovative technologies through research;
- Implementing concrete pilot projects in cutting-edge areas such as AI and digital identity;
- Establishing mechanisms for international collaboration and common approaches to digital transformation; and
- Developing common principles and rules through regulatory cooperation on key technology enablers for digital trade.
All the above will reflect the highest standards of data protection and follow the objectives set out by the EU-Japan mutual adequacy arrangement. The implementation of the EU-Japan Digital Partnership will start in 2023 and the countries will review their targets and progress on an annual basis.
EU-South Korea Digital Partnership
On November 28, 2022, the European Union and the Republic of Korea launched a new Digital Partnership to boost the cooperation between the two countries in the digital field. This collaboration will mainly focus on:
- Next generation mobile networks;
- Quantum technology;
- High Performing Computing (“HPC”);
- Digital platforms and standardization; and
- Data and digital skills.
The key action items from the EU-Korea Digital Partnership include:
- Engaging in collaborative research activities, facilitating access to, and participation in, international standardisation relating to emerging technologies in the digital sector.
- The sharing of information on: (i) cybersecurity threats and other aspects of cybersecurity, (ii) data-related laws and systems, which build on the existing adequacy decision that the European Commission granted to Korea (and ensuring data free flow of data between Korea and the EU) and working towards identifying commonalities between their existing regulatory approaches, (iii) views on a 6G roadmap and future 6G spectrum needs, (iv) the laws and systems aimed at the development and global use of trustworthy and human-centric AI (e.g., definitions, use cases, high risk AI applications, and response measures) and coordinating positions on AI governance, (v) platform policies, and (vi) approaches to protectionist measures in the digital space.
- The Digital Partnership will also establish a Korea-EU forum for semiconductor researchers to (i) discuss and share information on the latest technologies and trends, (ii) identify gaps and potential disruptions to the global supply chain, and (iii) explore potential opportunities for international standardisation of trusted chips and chip security.
EU-Singapore Digital Partnership
The European Union and Singapore announced on December 15, 2022 a new partnership that will focus on the digital sector and its issues. The EU-Singapore Digital Partnership will be formally signed and launched in 2023 and aims at reinforcing existing relationships between the European Union and Singapore in the digital realm to achieve sustainable economic growth. The range of digital issues the collaboration will focus on are:
- Trade facilitation;
- Trusted data flows and data innovation;
- Digital trust and standards;
- Digital skills for workers;
- Digital transformation of businesses and public services; and
- Emerging technologies (e.g. 5G/6G, AI and digital identities).
In contrast to the other partnerships, the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership is the first one to agree on the development and application of Digital Trade Principles (“Principles”). These Principles are designed to provide a common framework for digital strategies, which will in turn be used contribute to the ongoing OECD discussions on establishing rules regarding electronic commerce.
What are the next steps?
In announcing these Digital Partnerships, EU Commissioner, Thierry Breton mentioned that these Digital Partnerships are likely to:
- impact recent EU proposals, such as the EU Chips Act or AI Act; and
- help achieve interoperability between the EU and Asia, as the EU Commission and ASEAN countries continue to cooperate in the digital space.
As mentioned above, all three Digital Partnerships will be formally launched in 2023. We expect that the Digital Partnerships will be used as a strategic pathfinder for closer region-to-region digital connectivity and to develop enhanced cooperation with other ASEAN countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, among others.
If you would like to learn more about these Digital Partnerships, or how Covington could help you participate in related policy initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact us.