Fostering Growth in Digital Trade through Bilateral Cooperation in the Development of Trade Rules

Canada-India Track 1.5 Dialogue Paper No. 6

June 30, 2020

This backgrounder paper, first presented at Track 1.5 meetings in Mumbai, India, in November 2019, describes the digital trade agenda as viewed from the negotiating table.

Like foreign policy, trade policy is the outward expression of domestic policy — both economic and social — and trade negotiations are to advance the national interest. Both India and Canada have important commercial interests in digital trade and both have counterbalancing social policy concerns, but they have important differences as well. Their equitable participation in digital trade must overcome an imbalanced competitive landscape through measures to facilitate access to technology and infrastructure, financing, and training in digital technology literacy and data-based business models.

As yet, there is no international consensus on how trade rules should be adapted to foster digital trade. Consistent with the Track 1.5 Dialogue objectives, this paper calls on Canada and India to partner and lead in advancing the digital trade agenda. It recommends creating a bilateral process to identify common causes and areas for collaboration; convening a business-to-business conversation supported with research and analysis; and focusing on the impact of digital technology, looking at not only electronic commerce but also trade in traditional service sectors.

Part of Series

Canada-India Track 1.5 Dialogue

Canada-India Track 1.5 Dialogue is a collaboration between CIGI and Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. The Canada-India Track 1.5 Dialogue works jointly on multilateral issues and identifies areas where improved cooperation could benefit both countries. To address these challenges, the papers produced under this partnership will help to develop policy recommendations to promote innovation and navigate shared governance issues that are integral to the continued growth of Canada-India bilateral relations.

About the Author

Don Stephenson began his public service career in 1979, working first in cultural and economy policy before moving into trade. Among his many roles, he served as assistant deputy minister, trade policy and negotiations, until his retirement in late 2011, and as chief negotiator for the Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement until December 2018.