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Politics

Japan, EU launching high-level talks on safe data transfers

Tokyo government looking to create control tower to unify rules

The free movement of data across borders has become essential in business operations.

HANNOVER, Germany --Japan and the European Union are starting cabinet-level talks on creating a mechanism to ensure safe transfer of data across international boundaries.

Hiroshige Seko, Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry, is meeting with Andrus Ansip, vice president of the European Commission, on Monday to confirm the framework of the dialogue.

The EU generally bans the transfer of personal data outside of its member states, apart from a few trusted nations. Its General Data Protection Regulation, which will take effect in May 2018, will strengthen those rules.

Tokyo is negotiating with the European Commission, the EU's executive body, toward securing free movement of data. These discussions are running concurrently with negotiations for a bilateral economic partnership agreement. The high-level talks on data protection will be held simultaneously with EU-Japan Business Round Tables.

The exchange of data across borders has become essential for routine business operations. If a Japanese pharmaceutical company, for example, wants to transfer data generated by clinical trials in Europe to the home office for analysis, a special internal team needs to make sure those procedures comply with EU regulations, according to a representative in charge of legal affairs for a large drug manufacturer.

The freedom of cross-border data transfers is also a key element in innovations in the internet of things that are being advanced by Japanese corporations. Komatsu, for one, provides a service that collects and analyzes data from construction equipment working overseas in order to monitor their operational states.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is moving to set up a cross-agency control tower that will bring data protection rules and policies in line with regulations in other countries.

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