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South Korea Submits Intent to Participate in Asia-Pacific Data Transfer Agreement: the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System

January 17, 2017

Michael Rose is a Policy Advisory in the Office of Digital Services Industries

Another country is making it easier for companies to transfer personal data across borders, while at the same time, raising privacy standards.

In January 2017, South Korea submitted its Intent to Participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System.  The CBPR system facilitates commercial transfers of personal data across borders and raises privacy standards among the signatories by setting baseline data privacy practices for participating companies.  This facilitates trade and economic growth throughout the region by supporting supply chains and digital commerce in a critical region for U.S. exporters.

The expansion of the CBPR System across APEC builds consumer trust and reduces compliance costs for companies, which otherwise must rely on a myriad of compliance mechanisms. South Korea will become the fifth APEC Economy to participate in the data transfer agreement – joining the United States, Japan, Canada, and Mexico – once its application is finalized this year.  The CBPR System includes some of the largest companies in the United States including Apple, IBM, Merck, Cisco, and Hewlett Packard, which have raised global privacy standards in their companies by meeting APEC CBPR certification standards and registering with an approved APEC Accountability Agent.

“Korea offers significant market opportunity for American exporters,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis Ted Dean said with the announcement. “Korea’s participation in the APEC CBPR System will promote digital trade, benefit companies in the United States and around the region, and drive uptake of higher privacy standards for consumers in the Asia-Pacific.”

The CBPR System continues to build international recognition as a mechanism to build confidence for consumers, businesses, and regulators in regional privacy practices.  The growth of the CBPR System advances interoperability between data transfer regimes and ensures strong privacy protections for consumers.

In November 2016 the Leaders of all 21 APEC Economies reiterated their commitment to open data flows and strengthening privacy protections.  The APEC CBPR System has become a template for creating a global solution to data transfer restrictions.