Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first international visit after coming back to power for the second time with a huge mandate, has been gaining ground with the key discussions of economic and financial issues. At the G20 Summit of member countries at Osaka, Japan, PM Modi has been talking to his global peers about 5G technology, trade, data localisation, terrorism and other host of other issues.
PM Modi has formally and informally engaged with US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders.
One of the key discussions that took place in this two-day summit was free flow of data. A majority of G-20 countries signed off on the launch of “Osaka track”, an overarching framework promoting cross-border data flow with enhanced protections launched by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.
India Against Free Flow Of Data
India continued its strict stance against such free flow of data with Indonesia and South Africa staying on its side.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said India believes that the discussions and negotiations pertaining to data should be held within the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He further said that data is a new form of wealth and the WTO is framing international rules on this issue.
The Osaka initiative seeks to standardise rules in global movement of data flows with better protection in personal information, intellectual property and cybersecurity. US President Trump lent his support to Abe’s plan, saying the free flow of data is an integral part of the American digital economy’s success, along with strong privacy and intellectual property protections, and access to capital and innovation.
India’s stance on the subject was earlier conveyed by Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyall at the recent G-20 ministerial meeting in Tsukuba, Japan. He said, “We believe all nations should appreciate that the digital divide within and across nations is a serious impediment for developing countries to benefit from Digital Trade. Capacity constraints in developing countries, can be overcome with timely support of training and creation of digital infrastructure. This is important for facilitating a level playing field in the digital economy for all countries to take equitable advantage of data free flow.”
5G Technology: The Way Ahead
In his meeting with US President Trump at G20 Summit, PM Modi talked about 5G technology for wireless communications. PM Modi told him that it was a new area in communication that provided an opportunity for collaboration between India and the US.
“The Prime Minister outlined that we are going to be a billion users of this technology and in that sense India is the second largest market in the world. The way India moves, whatever choices India makes essentially determine the way the global trend will go,” Gokhale said, adding that Modi pointed out the need to collaborate “to see how we can leverage this”.
“The billion Indian users and India’s capacity in technology development and startups and design and Silicon Valley and its role in the development of 5G technology for mutual benefit” were discussed in the meeting, Gokhale said, adding that Modi highlighted the “Make in India” flagship programme in this context.
US President supported the idea and suggested ministerial level talks between the two countries to look at the opportunities that businesses of both sides can leverage and collaborate on.
The trade disputes have become a major concern recently with India and the US engaged in tariffs and retaliatory tariffs. Gokhale said that PM Modi referred to the withdrawal of special export privileges accorded by the US to India, and the retaliatory step taken by India to impose duties on 28 items imported from the US as “something that had already happened and that we should now look forward and see how we can resolve some of the issues”.
With Indonesian president Joko Widodo at G20 Summit, PM Modi discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, defence and maritime fronts. According to Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, India and Indonesia set a $50 Bn target for bilateral trade by 2025.