The Digital Challenge to International Trade Law
52 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 539 (2020)
University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper No. 20-30
55 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020 Last revised: 2 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 5, 2020
The rise of the Internet and so-called digital trade has significantly transformed international trade. International trade law, however, has lagged behind in regulating the phenomenon. Decades-long negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over digital trade have largely stalled, while efforts to deal with the issue at the bilateral and regional levels have resulted in inconsistent and fragmented rules. This article discusses the challenges posed by digital trade to international trade law and the best ways to meet those challenges. It contributes to the discourse on digital trade by advocating for a back-to-basics approach. It argues that instead of undertaking negotiations on controversial issues, the world trading community should focus on negotiating basic framework rules and applying widely accepted WTO legal principles to digital trade. This approach would best advance the WTO’s digital trade agenda while preserving the legitimacy of its multilateral process.
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