A Paradigm Shift in the Making: Designing a New WTO Transparency Mechanism That Fits the Current Era

46 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2021

Date Written: September 14, 2020


The rules-based multilateral trading system has been suffering from transparency challenges for decades. The theory of data technology provides a new perspective to assess the transparency provisions on their design, historic rationale, and evolution in light of the multilateral efforts for improvement since the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947). The development of frontier digital and data technologies, including mobile devices and sensors, new cryptographic technologies, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, have completely changed the landscape of data collection, storage, processing, and analysis. In light of the new business models of international trade, trade administration, and governance, opportunities for addressing transparency challenges in the multilateral trading system have arisen.

While providing solutions to transparency problems of the past, data technology applications could trigger new transparency challenges in trade and governance. For instance, questions arise as to whether developing countries would be able to access or provide trade information with the same quantity, understandability, and timeliness as more developed countries. This is in addition to the emerging transparency expectations of the current era, with the pandemic as an immediate challenge and the rise of “real-time” economy in a broader context. For the multilateral trading system to stay relevant, innovations for a holistic global mechanism for supply chain transparency, the transformation of council and committee operations, a smart design for technical assistance to tackle the digital divide, automated and real-time dispute resolution options and further integration of inclusiveness and sustainability considerations into trade disciplines should be explored.

Keywords: transparency provisions, digital technology, international trade law, legal technology, artificial intelligence, digital divide, supply chain, global data governance

JEL Classification: K33,O33,O38

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yaxuan, A Paradigm Shift in the Making: Designing a New WTO Transparency Mechanism That Fits the Current Era (September 14, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3923350 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3923350

Yaxuan Chen (Contact Author)

UNEP ( email )

Chem. des Anémones 11
Geneva, Geneva 1219

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