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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. 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.
    2. Yongmin Chen & Xinyu Hua & Keith E. Maskus, 2020. "International Protection of Consumer Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 8391, CESifo.
    3. 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.
    4. Robert Wolfe, 2018. "Learning about digital trade: Privacy and e-commerce in CETA and TPP," RSCAS Working Papers 2018/27, European University Institute.

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