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Just Published - Special Issue on Digital Trade vs Cyber Nationalism

Guest Editors:  

Milton Mueller, Georgia Institute of Technology, [email protected]

Farzaneh Badiei, Georgia Institute of Technology, [email protected]


The issue is available to read here:


Trade agreements and the threat of trade wars are extremely topical due to Trump's new protectionism and similar political and economic trends in other parts of the world. The role of "e-commerce" chapters or digital trade within trade agreements has also been very actively debated recently. Data localization laws have been resisted by invoking the concept of "digital protectionism", while some civil society groups have opposed trade agreements in this area because of their linkage to stronger copyright protections, which they see as impinging on the public domain, or their belief that such agreements might undermine privacy rights. Recent reports from the OECD and US Commerce department have also tried to measure digital trade and deal with the problem of how non-monetized information exchanges can be taken into account. 

There is a lot of policy literature and journalism on trade but not much of it is focused on digital services and we know of no other special journal issue that is looking at the issue from all sides, including the measurement/definition angle, the national security angle, the human rights angle, and the policy angle.  

Our aim is to explore both the scientific and policy issues posed by transnational internet exchanges and the way digital trade and communicative relationships are affected by policy interventions that attempt to reassert national control over information flows. These policy measures include data localization, cybersecurity, and human rights (privacy and intellectual property). 

The relevance is mostly for research, in that trade in digital services is difficult to measure and there are interesting scientific debates about how to account for "free" digital services in national accounts and international trade. In terms of practice, many of the papers will be proposing public policies that respond to current nationalistic concerns, or critiquing policies that may have bad effects.  

Specific topics may include, but are not limited to:  

  • Global data flows and their relationship to goods, service and FDI flows
  • Rights and trade: Trade agreements and privacy, intellectual property, and free expression  
  • Data localization laws: trade barriers or security prerequisite?
  • The geopolitical context of trade agreements and their revision
  • Cybersecurity and free trade in digital goods and services