Commerce and International Privacy Activities: APEC

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The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a grouping of 21 member economies in the Asia Pacific Region, including Russia, China, and the United States. APEC was established in 1989 to facilitate economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the region.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 member economies in the Asia Pacific region. APEC includes Russia, China, and the United States as members. APEC adopted a Privacy Framework in 2004. The APEC Privacy Framework is largely viewed as an attempt to create a different international privacy regime as an alternative to the European Union’s Data Protection Directive. Whether APEC will succeed in influencing international privacy developments in a meaningful way remains to be seen.

Whether the APEC Privacy Framework is a useful development is a debatable point, and much depends on the perspective of the person doing the analysis. Papers on the subject can be found on various sides from scholars and others. [53] A substantive analysis of APEC’s privacy work is beyond the scope of this paper because it is not a direct product of the US Department of Commerce but the result of an international collaboration, with the Department being the US representative to APEC through the International Trade Administration of the Department.

However, the role of the Department of Commerce in influencing the decision of APEC to become involved with privacy is relevant here. According to one analyst, efforts by the United States government were influenced directly by the US business community and were the “key motivation” for APEC’s Privacy Framework.

The key motivation for the development of the APEC Privacy Framework appears to stem from US business concerns regarding compliance with the EU Directive, and concerns regarding the potential expansion of the EU approach to other jurisdictions. These concerns coincided with growing interest in the US in the concept of enterprise-wide corporate privacy rules.

Although this is not the sole motivating factor, and many other countries participated in the development of the APEC Privacy Framework, it is unlikely that the Framework would exist without the influence of US business interests.[54]

The same analysis points to statements on the website of an American law firm representing business on privacy matters in which the law firm effectively claims credit for developing the idea behind the APEC Privacy Framework and bringing that idea to the US government. [55] This underscores the role of the US business community in influencing the international privacy activities of the Department of Commerce.






[53] See, e.g., Graham Greenleaf, APEC’s Privacy Framework: A New Low Standard, 11 Privacy Law and Policy Reporter 121 (2004), available at < 07/privacy/submissions/sub32ann_c.pdf>; Johanna G. Tan, “A Comparative Study of the APEC Privacy Framework- A New Voice in the Data Protection Dialogue?,” 3 Asian Journal of Comparative Law (2008); Nigel Waters, The APEC Asia-Pacific Privacy Initiative – A New Route to Effective Data Protection or a Trojan Horse for Self-Regulation?, Paper presented to Privacy Laws and Business International Conference (2008), available at < bin/download.cgi/download/au/journals/UNSWLRS/2008/59.pdf>.

[54] Chris Connolly, Galexia, Asia-Pacific Region at the Privacy Crossroads § 4 (2008), available at < html>.

[55] Id. at text accompanying note 12.
Roadmap: The US Department of Commerce and International Privacy Activities – Indifference and Neglect: APEC


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