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Another Digital Divide: The Rise of Data Realms and its Implications for the WTO


  • Susan Ariel Aaronson
  • Patrick Leblond


Individuals, businesses, and governments increasingly use data to create new services delivered via the internet. In so doing, they are creating a new economy built on cross-border data flows. The USA, the European Union, and China are using domestic and foreign policies to reap data-based economies of scale and scope. Essentially, they have created three distinct data realms with different approaches to data governance. As a result, they have fostered a new digital divide: between the three data behemoths and other countries that are rule takers. This situation presents the WTO with a challenge and an opportunity. These three data realms could undermine the ability of the WTO to govern trade in data flows, but it also creates pressures for the three data realms to use WTO mechanisms to find common ground among their approaches. Moreover, it could provide an incentive to WTO members to create new rules governing trade in data.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan Ariel Aaronson & Patrick Leblond, 2018. "Another Digital Divide: The Rise of Data Realms and its Implications for the WTO," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(2), pages 245-272.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jieclw:v:21:y:2018:i:2:p:245-272.

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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Yongmin & Hua, Xinyu & Maskus, Keith E., 2021. "International protection of consumer data," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C).
    2. Robert Wolfe, 2018. "Learning about digital trade: Privacy and e-commerce in CETA and TPP," RSCAS Working Papers 2018/27, European University Institute.
    3. Lidan Jiang & Jingyan Chen & Yuhan Bao & Fang Zou, 2022. "Exploring the patterns of international technology diffusion in AI from the perspective of patent citations," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 127(9), pages 5307-5323, September.
    4. Aaronson, Susan Ariel, 2019. "What Are We Talking about When We Talk about Digital Protectionism?," World Trade Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(4), pages 541-577, October.
    5. Pohle, Julia & Thiel, Thorsten, 2022. "Soberanía digital," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, issue Número Es, pages 1-1.
    6. Fleur Johns & Caroline Compton, 2022. "Data jurisdictions and rival regimes of algorithmic regulation," Regulation & Governance, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 16(1), pages 63-84, January.
    7. Lijuan Yang, 2023. "Recommendations for metaverse governance based on technical standards," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1), pages 1-10, December.
    8. Pohle, Julia & Thiel, Thorsten, 2021. "Digital Sovereignty," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 47-67.
    9. Manfred Elsig & Sebastian Klotz, 2021. "Digital Trade Rules in Preferential Trade Agreements: Is There a WTO Impact?," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 12(S4), pages 25-36, May.
    10. repec:bre:bebook:45816 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Nick Bernards & Malcolm Campbell‐Verduyn & Daivi Rodima‐Taylor & Jerome Duberry & Quinn DuPont & Andreas Dimmelmeier & Moritz Huetten & Laura C. Mahrenbach & Tony Porter & Bernhard Reinsberg, 2020. "Interrogating Technology‐led Experiments in Sustainability Governance," Global Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 11(4), pages 523-531, September.
    12. Xiaomeng Zhang & Wei Wang & Wenmeng Yu & Dajun Shen & Tingting Zhang, 2023. "River Chief Information-Sharing System as a River Information Governance Approach in China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(8), pages 1-20, April.
    13. Christensen, Rasmus Corlin & Hearson, Martin, 2022. "The Rise of China and Contestation in Global Tax Governance," Working Papers 17075, Institute of Development Studies, International Centre for Tax and Development.
    14. Ferracane,Martina Francesca & Van Der Marel,Erik Leendert, 2021. "Regulating Personal Data : Data Models and Digital Services Trade," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9596, The World Bank.
    15. Luciano Ciravegna & Snejina Michailova, 2022. "Why the world economy needs, but will not get, more globalization in the post-COVID-19 decade," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 53(1), pages 172-186, February.

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