OPP Meeting Summary: EP INTA Committee – Towards a digital trade strategy (9 November 2017)

A summary of the Committee’s consideration of amendments is now available.

EP INTA Committee – 9 November 2017
Towards a digital trade strategy
INTA/8/09922
– Consideration of amendments
– 
View related documents and the next stage of the procedure in the Policy Pipeline


Rapporteur Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL) made the following opening remarks

  • she thanked the Committee for the amendments submitted, as well as the opinions from the other Committees;
  • her draft contained three pillars:
    • ensuring market access for digital goods and services in third countries and removing new barriers;
    • ensuring that digital trade rules created tangible benefits for all consumers;
    • promoting respect for digital rights, including through trade agreements;
  • she stated that these three pillars had been embraced by most of the Committee;
  • several core issues had emerged from the amendments, and compromise amendments had been distributed;
  • a number of amendments focused on the importance of fair competition, which was crucial for combating new forms of protectionism in the digital economy. It would prevent excessive cases of market domination and provide choice for consumers;
  • there was a need to tackle burdensome customs procedures. They were an issue for both consumers and businesses, especially in the e-commerce context;
  • several amendments also raised the issue of digitisation in the context of development. Digital trade needed to bridge the digital divide;
  • the importance of net neutrality was also raised. There was consensus that investments in digital infrastructure needed to acknowledge net neutrality;
  • a number of amendments had focused on the impact of digital trade on SMEs. They were an engine of growth for the digital economy;
  • the issue of digitisation and jobs had also been raised in the amendments. She stated that it was an important topic that went beyond the report;
  • following the Paradise Papers revelations, a compromise amendment was being drafted on taxation and revenues of big tech companies;
  • there was still disagreement on the proper level of intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement and the role trade agreements played. She described it as a “blast from the past” from the discussions on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA);
  • she believed that a line needed to be devised between IPR for tangible goods and for digital services and content, so that there were no unintended consequences;
  • there was a lack of consensus on the issue of intermediary liability protections through trade agreements. Intermediary liability protections had a strong impact on the freedom of expression online. She hoped that the issue could be resolved between the Shadow Rapporteurs;
  • cross-border data transfers were a key issue for an EU strategy on digital trade, and a number of amendments had focused on it. There was a general consensus that the EU should develop a position on how to tackle digital protectionism, although the wording of a compromise amendment was still under discussion. She stressed that EU data protection and privacy legislation should not be compromised through trade agreements;
  • she hoped that the vote in Committee would take place on 23 November. It would send a strong signal to the Commission that it was “high time” for a European strategy on digital trade.

Interventions from Shadow Rapporteurs followed


Iuliu Winkler (EPP, RO) read out a statement on the behalf of Viviane Reding (EPP, LU)

  • trade rules needed to catch up to the digital age to restore trust and create a level playing field;
  • regarding consumer rights, although the report went into the right direction, it could do more on net neutrality, e-commerce, roaming and geo-blocking;
  • she believed that trade agreements should reinforce IPR and she referenced CETA in this regard;
  • on the issue of intermediary liability, EU law prevented a general monitoring obligation on passive platforms. This issue needed to be excluded from any trade agreements, as well as from the report because it went beyond the Committee’s competences;
  • the EPP group believed that trade agreements needed to include provisions that fully safeguarded data protection rules. Data protectionism needed to be rejected;
  • she fully believed that the EU needed to continue to shape digitisation and globalisation. They were two of the main engines of growth, but also major causes of concern.

Karoline Graswander-Hainz (S&D, AT)

  • e-commerce offered opportunities but also risks. It was important to be equipped to deal with any negative, as well as new, developments;
  • it was important to close the digital divide gap. It was not only about the divide between developed and less developed countries, but also among and within developed countries. This needed to be included in the text;
  • SMEs were often at a disadvantage in market access and this needed to be resolved;
  • regarding taxation, she stated that it was an important topic for trade agreements. Her group believed that tax should be paid in the country where profits were made, and this point was missing in the compromises;
  • data protection was very important she stated that it was “non-negotiable”. A balance needed to be struck between data flows and data protection;
  • strengthening the role of women in the digital economy was important for her group;
  • there was not enough on consumer protection in the compromise amendments.

Jan Zahradil (ECR, CZ) spoke on the behalf of Emma McClarkin (ECR, UK)

  • digital trade had huge potential for the job and growth creation, as well as future innovation;
  • the ECR group welcomed the positive approach to eliminating discriminatory and unjustified obstacles to the free flow of data across borders;
  • there was a role for trade policy in the protection of IPR;
  • digital trade was increasingly important for SMEs, and the ECR group supported the amendments for further facilitation of customs procedures;
  • smaller platforms needed to be considered when discussing intermediary liability. Monitoring of content would have “a chilling effect” on platform growth and innovation. The principles of the e-commerce Directive needed to be respected.

Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA, FI)

  • she called on the Rapporteur to reconsider the compromise amendment on data protection, and asked for the last part of the compromise amendment 10;
  • the text should not prejudge any decisions made on the proposal on copyright in the Digital Single Market;
  • she agreed with the Rapporteur’s approach on profit-shifting and taxation. These were big issues that needed to be addressed, and they needed to be a paragraph in the text rather than just a Recital.

A representative from the European Commission made the following remark

  • the Commission welcomed the Parliament’s engagement on the issue of digital trade and it was looking forward to discussing the final report;
  • digital trade would be addressed in the trade agreements with Mexico and Japan. The proposals would be available online.

Rapporteur Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL) made the following closing remarks

  • many Shadow Rapporteurs had proposed elements that would potentially be outside of the Committee’s scope of competences;
  • trade agreements were not the avenue for changing EU law but there needed to be ambition in finding ways to project the high EU standards to third countries. This needed to be an element of the digital trade strategy;
  • the EU needed to be a rule-maker, rather than a “rule-taker”. She hoped that the Shadow Rapporteurs would appreciate the global trade context.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the European Parliament serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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