Canada has become the latest entrant into the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System, boosting the protection of consumer data from security threats as it is transmitted around the Asia-Pacific while cutting compliance costs for businesses that increasingly depend on these information flows to operate and grow.


The move follows the addition of Japan last year, Mexico in 2013 and the United States in 2012 to the system—a voluntary, certification-based scheme that promotes a consistent baseline set of data privacy practices for companies doing business in participating APEC member economies. It paves the way for expansion of the system among the remaining 16 APEC members, with implications for data flows ranging from apps, cloud computing and email to biometrics, GPS information and online purchases of goods and services.


“The volume and speed of personal data crisscrossing the Asia-Pacific is intensifying as online consumers and companies deepen their footprint in the region,” said Mitsuo Matsumoto, Chair of the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group which administers the system. “Keeping a lid on fraud and other security threats in a way that limits barriers to legitimate data flows that fuel trade and economic growth is what the APEC system is all about. The key now is expanding it.”


The system requires business entities in participating APEC member economies to develop their own internal rules on cross-border data privacy procedures. These must comply with minimum requirements based on a set of commonly-agreed upon rules known as the APEC Privacy Framework and be verified by assessment and certification from an independent public or private sector body called an ‘Accountability Agent.’  


Canada first submitted its bid to join the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System in August 2014. Entry is determined by a Joint Oversight Panel within the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group which examines applicants’ domestic laws and regulations, and plans for enforcing commitments under the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System.


“The steady stream of new participants in the system is encouraging—both in terms of moving towards its region-wide adoption and making the case for its interoperability with other privacy regimes such as the one in the EU,” explained Matsumoto, who also serves as a Director for the Commerce and Information Policy Bureau within Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.


“Bringing more participants into the system ultimately depends on the capacity of governments and private sector partners to understand its benefits and meet the technical parameters needed to manifest them,” he concluded. “Expanding the system will continue to be a significant point of cooperation within APEC. The lessons that the growing number of participants in the system bring to the table can help a lot towards accelerating entry for others.”


The system was created through the APEC Electronic Commerce Steering Group, in coordination with the private sector, and endorsed by APEC Leaders in Honolulu in 2011. Its progress and further enhancing the free flow of data as a driver of growth will be in focus during the 2015 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on 23-24 May in Boracay, The Philippines.


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For details on media registration and the agenda for the 2015 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting, click here.


Greater insight into the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules System can be found here.


Additional information on cooperation between APEC members to strengthen electronic commerce is available here.


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