Towards Compatibility: The Future of Electronic Commerce within the Global Trading System

41 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2007 Last revised: 5 Jun 2015

See all articles by Andrew D. Mitchell

Andrew D. Mitchell

University of Melbourne - Law School


This article examines the key issues that electronic commerce poses for global trade, using as a starting point the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement most relevant to electronic commerce. It begins with an overview of electronic commerce, providing a workable definition of electronic commerce and examining its growth and economic impact. It then discusses the important function played by the WTO in electronic commerce, and the central role of GATS in that function. The article goes on to consider the compatibility between electronic commerce and global trade at three levels: first, at the textual level of GATS, providing recommendations to improve the treatment of electronic commerce within that agreement; secondly, at the structural level of the WTO agreements, proposing an integration of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and GATS to deal better with electronic commerce under the WTO regime; and thirdly, at the level of the global trading system, exploring how recognition of electronic commerce as a global public good may help reduce the digital divide between developed and developing countries.

Keywords: e-commerce, electronic, commerce, global, trading, GATS, WTO

JEL Classification: F1, F01, F02, F03, K1, K33

Suggested Citation

Mitchell, Andrew D., Towards Compatibility: The Future of Electronic Commerce within the Global Trading System. Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 4, p. 663, 2001; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 210. Available at SSRN:

Andrew D. Mitchell (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
+61383441098 (Phone)
+61393472392 (Fax)


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