As global data flows and digital technologies transform international trade, governments and regulators have to determine how to benefit from these developments while maintaining the integrity of their domestic regulations. Currently, governments are increasingly restricting global data flows and requiring data localization, undermining the economic benefits of digital trade. To address this trend will require a system of digital trade governance that has two key elements. One element is new digital trade rules, some of which exist in the WTO and others which are being developed in free trade agreements. The other is international regulatory cooperation to develop standards and mutual recognition agreements in areas such as privacy and consumer protection that gives domestic regulators confidence that allowing data to leave their jurisdiction will not undermine achievement of domestic regulatory goals. In the absence of such regulatory cooperation, governments are likely to continue to restrict data flows, relying on the exceptions provisions to their digital trade commitments.
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