Research Handbooks on the WTO series
Edited by Pierre Sauvé and Martin Roy
Chapter 14: Cross-border data flows: What role for trade rules?
A popular theme among trade negotiators of today is ‘new age’ issues. One such issue focuses on how to facilitate trade in services that involve data flows that cross national boundaries. According to the business community, trade in on-line information-oriented services is now facing obstacles with greater frequency than in the past. Spurred, in part, by concerns raised by industry, one bilateral trade agreement already contains a provision aimed at helping to alleviate the problem. This chapter examines some of the services associated with on-line data flows and the difficulties they experience. It considers how or when such obstacles might be considered ‘restrictions’ on trade. It reviews some of the existing multilateral rules and proposed texts that industry and governments hope can offer trade principles to govern cross-border data flows as well as relevant provisions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). A main question addressed is whether, and in what ways, trade obligations may or may not address the obstacles identified or offer viable solutions.
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