Digital Trade: Developing a Framework for Analysis

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This paper explores the definition, measurement, and policy implications of digital trade, proposing a tentative typology of digital trade that can be used to unpack transactions and analyse the issues. Digitalisation is changing what and how we trade: from digital delivery to greater physical trade enabled by digital connectivity. Online platforms mean more small packages crossing borders, while new technologies are changing how services are produced and delivered. Underpinning digital trade is the movement of data: data is a means of production, an asset that can itself be traded, and the means through which some services are traded and GVCs are organised. While there is no single definition of digital trade, there is a growing consensus that it encompasses digitally enabled transactions in trade in goods and services which can be either digitally or physically delivered involving consumers, firms and governments. Unpacking trade transactions along these lines using a tentative typology can help in understanding and identifying issues. For example, measuring digital trade poses challenges ranging from identifying transactions that are digitally enabled to the sectoral classification of services in a transaction, and efforts are underway to better reflect digital trade in trade statistics. For trade policy, the increased bundling of goods and services raises issues about which trade rules (GATT or GATS) apply; trade facilitation is ever more critical for just-in-time delivery and GVCs; and the role of data flows in enabling digital trade may require further attention, along with how to ensure that the gains from digital trade are inclusive, within and across countries.


López González, J. and M. Jouanjean (2017), "Digital Trade: Developing a Framework for Analysis", OECD Trade Policy Papers, No. 205, OECD Publishing, Paris.


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