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Turning the EU-Japan data flow ‘agreement in principle’ into a reality

December 12 2023

On Tuesday, 12 December in Brussels, the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation organised an in-person 60-minute briefing/Q&A session on the EU-Japan data flow agreement in principle. Vanda Markovic (Deputy Head of Unit for Services & Digital Trade) from DG TRADE explained what had been agreed, the likely next steps and answered questions together with a colleague. The event was aimed at EU and Japanese businesses and industrial organisations, chambers of commerce and other stakeholders, and gave its 19 participants an opportunity to hear from, and discuss with, the EU negotiators the implications of this milestone announcement.

The 2018 EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement included a 'placeholder' on the free flow of data (to reassess “within three years … the need for inclusion of provisions on the free flow of data into this Agreement”). Formal negotiations began in October 2022. At July’s EU-Japan Summit, both sides committed to accelerating the negotiations to reach an agreement by the end of 2023. During the 4th Japan-EU High-Level Economic Dialogue held on 28 October 2023, the EU and Japan announced that they had reached “agreement in principle” on the provisions on the free flow of data under the EPA.

The legal text of the Agreement in Principle can be found here and includes:

  • a political commitment to ensuring the cross-border transfer of information,
  • a legal obligation not to adopt or maintain measures which prohibit or restrict cross-border transfer of information, such as unjustified data localisation measures,
  • room for appropriate policy measures in exceptional circumstances from the viewpoint of personal information protection and legitimate public policy objectives

But what does this mean and what needs to happen to turn this ‘agreement in principle’ into a binding agreement? When is the agreement likely to enter into force and what form will it take? Concretely what is this likely to mean for businesses transferring data from Japan to Europe or from Europe to Japan?

To facilitate informal discussions, this was an in-person event held under the Chatham House Rule.

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