Digital Technologies and International Trade Regulation: An Introduction
An introductory chapter to the book Trade Governance in the Digital Age, edited by Burri and Cottier, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Digital technologies have had and continue to have profound effects on societal life. The transformations range from the trivial to the momentous – from online shopping, through the emergence of global value chains, to the very ways we work and communicate, create, distribute and access information. International trade regulation has so far not reacted in a forward-looking manner to the digital revolution, and in particular at the multilateral level, legal engineering has yielded few tangible results. Despite the lack of deliberate response so far and irrespective of Doha, the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO) possesses intrinsic flexibility and resilience, both in the substance and in the procedural mechanisms, that may still appropriately accommodate the changes brought about by burgeoning digital trade. This adaptive governance intrinsic to the WTO may nonetheless be insufficient, as the digital networked environment raises more fundamental and complex questions that transcend market access and liberalisation, and demand cooperation and coherent regulatory design.
The present paper is the introductory chapter to the book, resulting from the World Trade Forum 2010, that seeks to reveal the potential, as well as the limitations of the WTO framework with regard to digital trade.