World Trade Organization 2.0: Reforming Multilateral Trade Rules for the Digital Age

CIGI Policy Brief No. 152

July 11, 2019

The rules-based framework, as instantiated in rules established under the World Trade Organization (WTO), is not equipped to address the issues that are emerging under the technological conditions generated by the digital transformation. The emerging knowledge-based and data-driven economy features incentives for strategic trade and investment policy and a confluence of factors contributing to market failure at a global scale; digital social media and platform business models have raised concerns with calls for regulation affecting cross-border data flows; and newfound security issues raised by the vulnerabilities in the infrastructure of the digitized economy have precipitated a potential decoupling of global production networks along geopolitical fault lines. To date, the response has been fragmented, incomplete and, in large part, conducted outside the WTO. A new WTO digital round is required to create a multilateral framework that is fit for purpose for the digital age.

About the Author

Dan Ciuriak is a senior fellow at CIGI, where he is exploring the interface between Canada’s domestic innovation and international trade and investment. He is the director and principal of Ciuriak Consulting, Inc.