Monday 25 September 2023 - 8:03:23 am

U.S.-UAE deal on cross-border data flows shows potential cooperation in digital economy: U.S. Official

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By Binsal Abdulkader

ABU DHABI, 22nd November, 2022 (WAM) -- A joint statement on cross-border data flows signed by the United States and the United Arab Emirates is just one example of the potential for greater bilateral collaboration in digital economy, a senior U.S. official told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

“The joint statement really embodies the shared approach that the United States and the UAE take with respect to data policy,” said Arun Venkataraman, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

In an exclusive interview with WAM last week in Abu Dhabi, he added that the initiative particularly underscores the shared commitment to cross-border data flows to ensure that the data are used in a way that protects citizens’ interests.

Protecting citizens’ data

The joint statement intends to prevent misuse of data and recognises that, through a system of interoperability, both protection of consumers as well as maximizing the opportunities for data to produce benefits for society can be achieved, Venkataraman explained.

“So, it commits both governments to pursuing maximum protection of citizens’ data while pursuing interoperability both bilaterally as well as multilaterally. So, we are committed to identifying mechanisms as we work with other partners to support that kind of interoperable approach.”

Venkataraman, who assumed his office in April 2022 to lead the U.S. government’s efforts to promote exports abroad and attract inward investment, was on his first official visit to the UAE.

Joint statement to facilitate commerce across borders

Asked about the practical impact of the joint statement, the official asserted that it is not an academic exercise but maximises the sovereignty of all countries by allowing countries to pursue their own approaches to cross-border data flows. “But doing so, in a way, that facilitates commercial activity across borders,” the U.S. official emphasised.

He added that it will have an absolute win-win outcome. “You are protecting citizens and maximising the prospects for business to operate in multiple jurisdictions, bringing those benefits directly to citizens,” Venkataraman stressed.

Detailing the further prospects of bilateral cooperation in digital economy, the official pointed out that the UAE Government is keenly interested to bring more innovation and more technology to the UAE.

Joint solutions in digital economy

“Of course, American companies have to be a part of that because they are the global leaders in this space. So, there's such a ripe area for partnership. By partnering together, we intend to create credible solutions that will harness the resources of the talent both of the UAE and of America to bring solutions here not just in the Middle East but around the world,” he explained.

Asked about his projections on future prospects of the U.S-UAE bilateral trade, Venkataraman said he would leave it to prognosticators, but he is confident about a bright future.
“I derive my confidence from what I hear from our business community about the trajectory that they expect here in the Emirates. It is not built on hope but on actual data and actual experience and what they see happening here in the Emirates. I trust my commercial partners to tell me about what the prospects are for the future. We hear the Emirates is a place for American companies to come, grow, succeed, and really strengthen the foundation of this long-term strategic partnership,” he said.

A veteran in international business

Venkataraman has over 20 years of experience in advising companies, international organisations and the U.S. government on international trade issues. Most recently, he served as Counsellor to the Secretary of Commerce. Before joining the Biden-Harris Administration, he was a Senior Director at Visa. During the Obama Administration, Venkataraman served as ITA’s first-ever Director of Policy. He also served in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Prior to USTR, he was a Legal Officer at the World Trade Organisation.
Born in Coimbatore in southern India, and raised in Houston, Venkataraman holds a juris doctorate from Columbia Law School.

Binsal Abdulkader