Trade Law 4.0: Are We There Yet?

Journal of International Economic Law, Issue 25 (2023)

15 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2023

Date Written: February 6, 2023


This article explores the shift in the international economic law discourse from trade law 2.0 (as trade in goods and services online) towards trade law 4.0 (as the regulation of the data-driven economy). In this context, it traces the dynamics of digital trade rule-making over the past decade, set in a complex geopolitical landscape, by looking at some broad trends, as well as at distinct regulatory models endorsed by preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and the innovative templates of Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs). The article goes then back to the multilateral venue of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and reveals how PTAs have worked as regulatory laboratories but asks whether their results can be fully translated to the WTO. This enquiry highlights both the possibilities and the constraints of the multilateral forum. The article’s final analytical strand shows that the topic of digital trade as linked to the underlying digitization processes is transforming global trade law – yet, we can observe both legal innovation as well as path dependencies that stem from pre-existing regulatory regimes and geopolitical positioning, which might ultimately prevent us from designing a regulatory framework that reflects the practical reality of trade 4.0 and the needed levels of legal certainty, technological neutrality and interoperability of rules.

Keywords: digital trade, cross-border data flows, electronic commerce, PTAs, WTO, CPTPP, DEPA, RCEP, digital economy agreements

Suggested Citation

Burri, Mira, Trade Law 4.0: Are We There Yet? (February 6, 2023). Journal of International Economic Law, Issue 25 (2023), Available at SSRN:

Mira Burri (Contact Author)

University of Lucerne ( email )

Frohburgstrasse 3
PO Box 4466
Lucerne, 6002


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics