Trade Rules and the Digital Economy

My 2017 industry White Paper for Huawei

One of the first things I was asked to do when I joined Huawei was to help the company define and articulate its position on a – then – new set of trade rules being negotiated in different fora on the digital economy.

The result was my 2017 White Paper: Trade Rules and the Digital Economy, which sought to describe these rules and their possible implications for the global digital economy as well as stake out the company’s position on issues such as restrictions on cross-border data flows, forced localization requirements, the mandatory disclosure of source code and others. The White Paper itself is provided in flipbook format below.

Because the white paper is very long, I was also asked to prepare a shorter summary, a kind of synosis document that is limited to the white paper’s key points and findings. That document is likewise provided below, again in flipbook format.

This project was of course a collaborative effort, and although I was the lead author, others contributed in no small way, such as Hosuk Lee-Makiyama of the European Center for International Political Economy (ECIPE) and a number of colleagues at Huawei like Zhang Shige and Alessandro Marrongiu. Joy Tan, then the head of international media, proofread a final draft of the white paper and gave some great feedback in terms of aligning the language with the company’s corporate communication guidelines.

Ultimately, and with the benefit of hindsight, the most important findings are probably the following

I also think the graphic below, on crafting trade rules in service of development is particularly useful and contains some very practical proposals that are still of the greatest relevance.

I still do a lot of work on these issues, most recently for GSMA and the Commonwealth Secretariat. And Australia has shown that it is deeply committed to taking a leadership role in the articulation, negotiation and application of trade rules to govern the digital economy, as manifested in its co-convening of the Joint Statement Initiative on Trade-Related Aspects of E-Commerce at the WTO and the conclusion of the Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore in 2020.