Today, MEPs Jan Albrecht, Bernd Lange, Viviane Reding and Marietje Schaake sent the following letter to President Juncker.
As Members of the European Parliament, not only we are empowered to set clear goals and red lines in the EU’s trade policy, but it is also our responsibility to monitor each stage of the negotiations. We urge the European Commission to put forward its position on cross-border data flows in trade negotiations and to discuss it with the relevant monitoring groups and the INTA committee as a whole, before submitting it to our partners.
In this regard, we would like to draw your attention to the European Parliament’s position on the matter. As reflected in the TTIP and TiSA resolutions, respectively adopted in July 2015 and February 2016, the Members of this House recommend:
“to ensure that the EU’s acquis on data privacy is not compromised” (TTIP, b(xii))
“to ensure that the provisions of the final agreement are consistent with existing and future legislation at EU level, including the General Data Protection Regulation; (...) to guarantee that the EU retains its ability to suspend the transfer of personal data from the EU to third countries where the rules of the third party do not meet EU adequacy standards, where alternative avenues, such as binding corporate rules or standard contractual clauses, are not used by companies and where the derogations listed in Article 26(1) of Directive 95/46/EC do not hold ” (TiSA c(iii))
“to incorporate a comprehensive, unambiguous, horizontal, self-standing and legally binding provision based on GATS Article XIV which fully exempts the existing and future EU legal framework for the protection of personal data from the scope of this agreement, without any conditions that it must be consistent with other parts of the (agreement)” (TTIP b(xii) and TiSA c(iii))
“to recognise that digital innovation is a driver of economic growth and productivity in the entire economy; to recognise that data flows are a crucial driver of the services economy, an essential element of the global value chain of traditional manufacturing companies; (...) to seek, therefore, a comprehensive prohibition of forced data localisation requirements” (TiSA c(vii))
Data flows have become the backbone of our economies and the bedrock of international trade. They should not be unduly prohibited by means of unjustified forced data localisation requirements. We fully reject protectionism.
Yet, nothing in these trade agreements should prevent the EU from maintaining, improving and applying its data protection rules. Our rules on international transfers of personal data, are crystal clear, well-grounded and must not in any way be diluted.
In other words, data protection should not be subject to trade negotiations. It is a fundamental right, not a trade barrier, and as such, it should be fully excluded from these agreements. Accordingly, any commitments on market access and to international standards on cross-border data flows must be very carefully conditioned. We also believe that the WTO exemption for data protection, known as GATS XIV, should be strengthened.
Our trade in services and data protection rules, both at both European and international level, were originally written in 1995, in the pre-Internet era. They are not fit for the digital age. Now that we have solid common European standards, putting European citizens in control of their personal data, we must make sure they are fully-safeguarded in the trade agreements we negotiate. EU's domestic and international initiatives are two sides of the same coin. To restore consumers’ trust and to provide legal certainty to businesses, the EU must be consistent in its approach at both levels.
Viviane Reding (EPP)
Jan Albrecht (Greens)
Bernd Lange (S&D)
Marietje Schaake (ALDE)