Digital or Trade? The Contrasting Approaches of China and US to Digital Trade

Journal of International Economic Law, Volume 21, Issue 2, 1 June 2018, Pages 297-321, DOI: 10.1093/jiel/jgy015

33 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018 Last revised: 19 Feb 2019

See all articles by Henry S. Gao

Henry S. Gao

Singapore Management University - School of Law

Date Written: December 28, 2017

Abstract

With the growing importance of the internet, digital trade, or electronic commerce, has become a key issue in international trade regulation. As the home to some of the largest internet companies in the world, the United States took the lead in bringing the issue into the WTO and has been the leading proponent on the issue. In contrast, the developing countries were quite sceptical and reluctant to engage on discussions on the issue. Recently, however, several developing countries have changed their positions and become more active participants. Chief among them is China, which has raised some interesting proposals both within and beyond the WTO. The issue has also been identified as one of the main issues to be discussed at the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO. This paper provides a critical examination of the contrasting approaches of the US and China on the issue. It argues that, the US approach tends to focus more on the “digital” nature of digital trade, while the Chinese approach prefers to address the issue from the traditional “trade” perspective. The paper analyses the reasons for the different approaches, and provides some suggestions on how to move forward on the issue at MC11 and beyond given the differences between the two approaches.

Keywords: Digital Trade; Electronic Commerce; Doha Round; WTO; Trade Regulation

Suggested Citation

Gao, Henry S., Digital or Trade? The Contrasting Approaches of China and US to Digital Trade (December 28, 2017). Journal of International Economic Law, Volume 21, Issue 2, 1 June 2018, Pages 297-321, DOI: 10.1093/jiel/jgy015, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3162557 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3162557

Henry S. Gao (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University - School of Law ( email )

55 Armenian Street
Singapore, 179943
Singapore

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.smu.edu.sg/faculty/law/henrygao.asp

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