It is vital for law firms and in house counsel that they are at the forefront when advising on the specifics and legalities of the technology supply chain, which increasingly relies on mining raw materials for use within the manufacturing process of ‘smart’ products. However, an acute awareness of the barriers is also essential.
As such, Gowling WLG’s Protectionism 2.0 Report highlights how protectionist domestic policies from country to country can stifle the commercial overseas collaboration opportunities that technology offers.
Given the increase in protectionist policies, and the inherent link that exists between these and mining essential raw materials, it has never been more important that in house teams work closely with their advisers to anticipate market changes and implement strategies to manoeuvre through what can be difficult events and circumstances.
What is becoming evident, as set out in the report, is that there is a startling correlation between countries that pursue digitally protectionist policies (laws that prevent the overseas collaboration that is needed for technology to properly develop) as well those that are protectionist in relation to their natural resources – in particular China, Russia, India, Vietnam, Argentina and Turkey – six key global players in both areas of the economy. Given that countries like these are the very same which house the essential raw materials that need to be mined to fuel the development of technology, it is crucial to understand how to anticipate the impact of such behaviour on the technology supply chain.
General Counsel could be forgiven for focusing more on the operational and trading aspects relating to the existing uncertainty surrounding Brexit and global trade – and simply seeing digital protectionism as a side-line issue to focus on at a later date. This would be a mistake, given that these measures pose as much a threat to international trade and development as the more traditional tools of trade protectionism that seem to be most in focus at present.
Not only do the identified countries above have a strong track record in imposing trade barriers and tariffs on imports, they also have a high number of restrictive data laws and large deposits of the vital raw materials needed to make smartphones, connected devices and batteries for electric vehicles.
While this is happening in real time, many technology focused brands – focused on the manufacturing side of the industry – may not yet have anticipated how this will affect their sourcing and subsequent supply chain partners and processes. This makes it even more important that General Counsel communicate the effect of this on the output of their businesses in order to assist internal relationships or indeed, using the foresight of their selected legal advisers.