EU says lack of clarity in China’s data laws is concerning

BEIJING (Reuters) – European Union businesses are concerned about China’s data laws, including their “lack of clarity” and the “long processes” that companies have to undergo, European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova said on Tuesday.

In July, China expanded its counter-espionage law. It now bans the transfer of any information related to national security and interests, without defining those terms, while widening the definition of spying to include cyberattacks against state organs or critical infrastructure.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s increasing focus on national security – particularly a crackdown on consultancies and due diligence firms – has left many foreign firms unsure of where they might step over the line of the law.

Jourova said the lack of definitions such as, for example, what constitutes important data, and the lack of clarity on how the law might be contravened was problematic as was the lengthy time it takes to complete procedural matters.

“I think it’s 45 days for one process,” Jourova a news conference. “It lasts very often a much longer time.”

She was speaking after co-chairing the first EU-China High-level Digital Dialogue in three years on Monday.

“We will come back to the Chinese authorities with a proposal to create some kind of information link that will help EU businesses to understand the law and avoid possible lack of compliance,” she added.

China is a partner, competitor and systemic rival but systemic rivalry has become the most prominent of the three roles the country plays in the digital area, she said.

It is important China and Europe keep communication channels open in various degrees where there is disagreement, she said.

In late July, the Chinese commerce ministry briefed representatives from the U.S., European, Japanese and South Korean chambers of commerce, as well as 30 foreign firms, on the new anti-espionage law.

China is committed to creating a fair, transparent and predictable business environment, the ministry said at the time.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Ella Cao; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)