AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

Rules on Digital Trade in the Light of WTO Agreements

by Asif Khan

Institution: Zhengzhou University China
Department: School of Law
Degree: Doctorate Degree
Year: 2023
Keywords: WTO, GATS, cross border data flow, Digital Trade.
Posted: 12/11/2023
Record ID: 2222286
Full text PDF: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4636095


The World Trade Organization has been reluctant to respond to the different issues that come up due to integrating the digital economy into cross-border trading. The multilateral system’s slow reaction is principally due to the complicated, multifarious character of the digital economy or digital trade and country conflict over Regulation of the internet and digital growth problems. Agreements on International trade, especially those negotiated at the WTO agreements, are critical in establishing a protected, reliable, and dependable worldwide regulatory structure for digital trades. However, the framework of WTO was created before digital Trade arose. Unfortunately, there is no clear concept of digitalization in the norms of the WTO, especially GATS. The thesis will seek to explain how the World Trade Organization and, especially, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade implement data-restrictive policies and whether the WTO’s regulations can balance internet policy goals and Trade. It emphasizes the interdependence of the three essential concepts of internet governance that apply to cross-border flows of data, particularly security, privacy, and internet openness. It then presents a theoretical structure for aligning the General Agreement on Trade and Services with all those three objectives in order to enable an open and predictable structure for effective internet policies and digital trade. According to the dissertation, this approach is used with three types of data-restrictive measures: Cybersecurity related data restrictive, privacy related data restrictive measures, and online content control. This thesis demonstrates that the General Agreement on Trade and Service (GATS) can be implemented and interpreted wisely to comply with principles of security, privacy, and internet openness. For instance, commitments contained in the GATS's schedules of commitments can be understood technologically neutrally, allowing for either internet of openness or trade liberalization. Additionally, GATS access to market, National regulations, and non-discrimination’ standards (subject to pertinent exemptions and commitments from Member states) usually facilitate the opening of cross-border data exchange, thereby increasing the internet's openness. Moreover, under GATS's exceptions, Panels can differentiate between measures ostensibly related to online content control, privacy, and Cybersecurity and those necessary to accomplish these goals. Panels must take into account technical and legal information when conducting a comprehensive examination of data-restrictive measures under GATS provisions, such as reliance on knowledge and experience concerning the internet regulation. Due to the lack of international agreement on internet policy issues and the relatively archaic structure of GATS, the provisions of GATS are limited in their conformity with the concepts of security, privacy, and internet openness.