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R&D: Data infrastructure for trade competitiveness

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We’re looking at how data infrastructure affects the competitiveness in international markets of data-enabled goods and services produced by Australia, Canada, the UK, and other countries

People to talk to about this

This project looked at how data infrastructure could affect the competitiveness in international markets of data-enabled goods and services produced by companies around the world, and particularly those from the United Kingdom, Australia, and countries in the European Union.

This work is part of a three-year innovation programme, running to March 2020 with a funding profile of £2m each year from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Through our R&D programme, we aim to shape future services and promote productivity and growth with cutting edge expertise.

We were particularly interested in how countries could engage in international regulatory cooperation to set trustworthy standards for data in trade in ways that would lower friction for companies and increase the benefits of cross-border exchange.

Key outputs

The report what are the links between data infrastructure and trade competitiveness? discusses how data infrastructure might be built for trade competitiveness and the key factors that matter in the determinants of competitiveness: market access; incentives for trade and investment; factor conditions; intermediate inputs and backbone services; and trade promotion.

European data economies trade project: background research and mapping is a high-level analysis of the data economies of Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and discusses the factor conditions enjoyed by firms in the countries as they develop data-enabled goods and services and seek to export them.

What affects the flow of data-enabled international trade considers how institutions affect market access and the ease with which data-enabled companies in one country can sell to consumers in another; and the factor conditions and the costs faced by domestic firms in getting access to the data resources they need for production.

Evolution of data stipulations in international trade agreements tracks how data issues have become more common in the agreements that underpin international trade, such as those held by the World Trade Organization and the trade deals that countries have signed with each other in recent years.

Data flows in international trade: what are the governance options? relays ideas from leading thinkers at the World Trade Organization’s 2019 Public Forum on the options for achieving trust in the sharing of data during cross-border trade, raising market access and access to data.

Why international regulatory cooperation matters to data in trade discusses why the nature of data sharing is likely to require sophisticated models of regulatory cooperation that raises cross-border innovation, flexes with changes in technology, and appreciates cultural differences.

Regulation and combinatorial innovation discusses the nature of data use in modern technology, why regulatory practices could change as a result, and what that means for international regulatory cooperation.

Anticipatory regulation discusses an approach to the regulation of modern technology at home, and what it means for the design of international regulatory cooperation with regulators abroad.

Understanding the potential of the Global Financial Innovation Network describes the development of a leading example of cooperation and market access facilitation from Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and the lessons it could have for data in trade. 

China’s digital silk road: data infrastructure for international trade? discusses how emerging global initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative are seeking to create conditions that make it easier for firms to export digital services or seek investment, and what that means for international trade.

International data strategy, the Australian way discusses the parameters of how a country such as Australia might approach signing agreements for data-sharing with its economic, political, and cultural partners.

Policymakers need access to the metadata of trade agreements to facilitate international trade points out the difficulty that policy-makers have in monitoring the performance of trade deals, and how more open access to data on their performance could improve trade policy.

About data infrastructure for trade competitiveness

The creation of new products and services with data could generate innovations which drive economic growth around the world, but not much is currently known about how to build data infrastructure with trade competitiveness – and particularly market access and regulation considerations – in mind.

Without that understanding, problems such as data protectionism – where countries require the domestic storage and analysis of data about their citizens – may continue to limit data sharing; while the benefits of regulatory coordination and interoperability may be missed, making it harder for innovative firms to grow and access new markets.

In practice

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Centre for International Political Economy have been researching the effects of cross-border data exchange restrictions on international trade, while academics such as Bernard Hoekman and Mira Burri have been considering international rules and cooperation around data, technology, and other issues in international trade. We built on their work.

Our approach

We researched the factors that might affect how countries could gain economic competitiveness in trade from their data infrastructure, and the ways in which they could engage in international regulatory cooperation to set standards and practices for data sharing in cross-border trade, that raises market access and the gains from trade.