A new initiative aims to modernize global trading rules



The Economist

It will pit the world’s big powers against each other

“Satisfaction guaranteed!” promises the seller of “The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organisation” (wto). The magic of e-commerce means that the doorstopper can be exported from America to Tajikistan for a cool $35.95 (plus shipping). A new initiative on digital trade at the wto strives to add to the laws and policies described within its pages. But far from increasing general satisfaction, this plan is controversial.

At first glance, it is hard to see why. On January 25th representatives of 76 wto members gathered at the annual shindig in Davos announced plans to negotiate new rules covering “trade-related aspects of electronic commerce”. Compared with the trade talks between America and China that restarted this week in Washington, this venture seems positively collegial. It makes sense: trade rules were written when cloud computing was the stuff of science fiction. What better way to demonstrate the value of the wto, just as President Donald Trump is busy undermining it?

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