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EU, Japan move closer on data protection deal

Brussels  - The European Union and Japan are taking the next steps on a mutual agreement to guarantee data protection as part of their deepening trade relationship, the European Commission announced on Wednesday.

The commission published a draft list of extra safeguards that will apply to any EU data sent to Japan, including information relevant to Japanese law enforcement and national security agencies.

These safeguards guarantee that EU citizens' data receives the same level of protection in Japan as it would in Europe, the commission said. A similar process is under way in Japan to recognize the EU's data protection framework.

This intermediate step, called a draft adequacy decision, follows recent EU-Japan talks on data protection. Those talks were part of a broader free trade deal the two sides finalized in July, with the aim of coming into effect by early 2019.

"We are creating the world's largest area of safe data flows," said Commissioner Vera Jourova, whose portfolio includes consumer protection, in a statement from Wednesday. "Personal data will be able to travel safely between the EU and Japan to the benefit of both our citizens and our economies."

The EU's national data protection authorities are required to analyse the new safeguards, followed by a review by a committee representing EU member states. The commission will formally adopt the adequacy decision once it clears those hurdles.

European consumer groups have insisted that any data-sharing agreements with non-EU countries need to include data protection provisions that match the EU's relatively stringent standards.