A Study on the Digital Economic Partnership Agreement (DEPA) - Focusing on the impact on the formation of multilateral rules for digital trade

Author Name WATANABE Shota (Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.)
Creation Date/NO. January 2024 24-J-003
Research Project Comprehensive Research on the Current International Trade/Investment System (pt.VI)
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DEPA is the first trade agreement fully dedicated to digital trade. All of its founding countries are also CPTPP members. Why did they create DEPA after already implementing high-level digital trade rules within the TPP? An analysis of their intentions reveals that the creation of DEPA was intended to complement the WTO and TPP, ensuring interoperability and cooperation on key elements of the digital economy and removing obstacles to business.

DEPA is significant in that it presents the necessary elements of the digital economy in a more comprehensive manner than existing agreements. However, many of these efforts are being undertaken in forums other than trade. One reason for this superimposed rule formation may have derived from a lack of communication between the digital and trade policy communities.

DEPA and Japan share the same direction in terms of removing barriers to business by ensuring interoperability, but since these efforts are already underway, there seems to be little significance for Japan to join DEPA at first look. However, Korea has stated that it expects DEPA to develop into a multilateral rule and that it will lead the formation of global rules and announced its accession to DEPA. China may have similar intentions. Considering its political significance and the possibility of rule formation, Japan's accession to DEPA is a promising option.