Data Moving Across Borders: The Future of Digital Trade Policy

Date period
24 April 2016

Implemented jointly by ICTSD and the World Economic Forum, the E15Initiative was established to convene world-class experts and institutions to generate strategic analysis and recommendations for government, business, and civil society geared towards strengthening the global trade and investment system for sustainable development.

This paper examines how trade policy institutions can mobilise to support the new digital economy of the 21st century. The paper begins by outlining the core enablers of the digital economy and the intersection between cross-border data flows and policy measures with non-trade objectives, such as privacy. The main focus is on how digital and digitally enabled businesses operate domestically and across borders.

The paper then examines the WTO’s substantial past and present contributions to laying the foundation of digitally enabled trade and investment, including the WTO’s established legal acquis in its agreements as interpreted since 1995. Finally, the authors discuss how the WTO could support digital trade going forward, the TPP’s significance for digital trade, and the challenges for negotiations on a plurilateral Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).