Author: Fukunari Kimura, Consulting Fellow, RIETI
Ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka from June 28 to 29, 2019, the T20 (Think 20) summit was held in Tokyo from May 26 to 27. The T-20, which serves as an “idea bank” for the G20, is one of the G20 formal engagement groups (organizations established on an agenda-by-agenda basis and a function-by-function basis which are independent from governments) that are comprised of think tank experts and other knowledgeable people from G20 and other countries. The T-20 established task forces and held discussions on 10 policy challenges related to major themes of the G20 Osaka summit and issued a joint statement that summarized the policy proposals from the task forces at the T20 summit.
Of the 10 task forces, the Task Force on Trade, Investment, and Globalization, comprised of think tank experts from around the world, held discussions mainly on the following three challenges: (1) reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and resolution of trade disputes, (2) the flow of digital data, and (3) initiatives to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth (services trade, global value chains (GVC), investment facilitation, etc.).
Of those themes, this paper examines the status of the policy debate on data flows. While national governments are already implementing various economic policies related to data flows in the real world, there is not yet a consensus among economists on how to approach data flows in the study of economics. There is also confusion in the debate over how policies related to data flows should be assessed. Therefore, as part of its policy proposal, the T20 put forward a framework of the policy debate on data flows that is desirable from the perspective of economics. This framework will be explained below, but readers should keep in mind that there is not a full consensus on this framework among economists around the world.
Image taken by The White House and sourced from Wikimedia Commons.