trade law 4.0: trade law for the data-driven economy

The project Trade Law 4.0: Trade Law for the Data-Driven Economy explores the role of global trade law in the broader area of data governance.

Data has undoubtedly emerged as a critical topic in contemporary law and policy. On the one hand, because it is important to understand whether and how different societal areas have been affected by digital transformations, including disruptive phenomena like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and, on the other hand, because governance toolkits, including legal rules, have failed to keep pace with the rapidly changing technological advancements and need to adapt to reflect these developments. Despite the urgency attached to both tasks and the intensified mobilization of policy and research efforts to address them, the topic of data-driven transformation has been explored in a fragmented manner. The domain of trade law has been particularly slow to react and adapt and we still lack a full understanding of the impact of digitization on the entire body of global trade rules. To put it plainly, despite living in times of industries 4.0, we have trade rules grounded at 1.0.

The Trade Law 4.0 project addresses these gaps by conducting research in three interrelated fields that seek to:

(1) enhance our understanding of the implications of digital disruption for trade law and vice versa, including through a thorough analysis of all existing trade rules that matter for data, as it flows across borders and is regulated domestically;

(2) boost our toolkits for tackling the tensions inherent to the data-driven economy by mapping and analyzing all available mechanisms for reconciling economic and non-economic objectives, with a strong focus on data protection but including also other values, such as freedom of speech, that may be important for national constituencies; and

(3) suggest design for trade law that can be sustainable in an environment of fluid technological change.

The Trade Law 4.0 project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Consolidator Grant Agreement 101003216) and is scheduled to run from 2021 to 2026.