Data is Divisive: A History of Public Communications on E-commerce, 1998-2020

CIGI Papers No. 247 — December 2020

32 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021

See all articles by Susan Ariel Aaronson

Susan Ariel Aaronson

George Washington University - Elliott School of International Affairs

Thomas Struett

George Washington University - Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA)

Date Written: February 17, 2021

Abstract

For 22 years, the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been discussing how to govern e-commerce and the data that underpins it. In 2019, some 74 (now 86) nations began to negotiate e-commerce. These talks are conducted in secret and little is known about how they are progressing. However, WTO members issued a wide range of public comments on both the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Electronic Commerce from 1998, when the work program began, to the present. These communications provide context as well as a window into the negotiations.Using qualitative techniques to analyze these communications, the authors found that throughout the 22-year period, member states were divided by their understanding, capacity and willingness to set rules governing e-commerce or digital trade. Members had divergent views on: whether or not to extend the moratorium on customs duties (although they have consistently extended it); how best to nurture the digital economy and what role trade agreements should play in governing it; and the ability of all WTO member states to participate effectively in these talks. Many countries had e-commerce expertise, but they did not have a wide range of firms with digital prowess. Moreover, many of the WTO member states did not have expertise governing various types of data. In short, data, digital prowess and data governance expertise were creating division among members.To bridge this divide, this paper offers three suggestions

Keywords: data-digital trade, e-commerce, privacy, personal data

JEL Classification: 038, 032, F52, F53, F68

Suggested Citation

Aaronson, Susan and Struett, Thomas, Data is Divisive: A History of Public Communications on E-commerce, 1998-2020 (February 17, 2021). CIGI Papers No. 247 — December 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3787148 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3787148

Susan Aaronson (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Elliott School of International Affairs ( email )

1957 E Street
Washington, DC 20052
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.gwu.edu/~elliott/faculty/aaronson.cfm

Thomas Struett

George Washington University - Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA) ( email )

2201 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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