Coalition launches new digital trade framework ahead of Australian election

Digital trade is expected to grow to AU$192 billion by 2030.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

The federal government has set out a new framework for building digital trade as part of its vision for Australia to become a top 10 digital economy by 2030. According to Trade Minister Dan Tehan, the launch of the new framework was spurred by predictions that digital trade will grow to AU$192 billion by the end of this decade.

Labelled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as a digital trade strategy, the framework is scant on actionable details but provides three aspirational goals.

The first of these goals is advocating for digital trade liberalisation, standards, and regulatory cooperation with international partners and through participation in international fora. The remaining two are negotiating liberalising and trade-facilitative digital trade rules and supporting the implementation of digital trade rules internationally.

While the federal government has put forward that its priority is advocating for digital trade liberalisation, companies like Meta have publicly said the government's recent policy moves have been counter to those aspirations.

Last week, Meta criticised the government's proposed online anti-defamation legislation as the tech giant believes it is at odds with the country's free trade agreements with other nations.

The anti-defamation legislation, framed as laws to stop trolling, seeks to require social media service providers to establish nominated Australian entities that can access user data for users who have posted potential defamatory material while in Australia.

According to the federal government, the implementation of these laws is allowed under an exception under a World Trade Organization agreement.

"We believe that relying on technical exceptions to justify the view that this legislation is compliant with the Free Trade Agreement would be seen as hypocrisy by other countries throughout the region," Meta said.

"These requirements would set a concerning precedent that could undermine the principles of an open internet."

The new digital trade strategy will sit alongside the federal government's AU$1 billion Digital Economy Strategy, which is set to receive another AU$130 million over four years if the Coalition wins the upcoming federal election, Tehan said.

The digital trade strategy comes with the federal election looming in May, with the election for both houses set to be held by May 21 at the latest.  

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