Trade Law 4.0: Trade Law for the Data-Driven Economy (ERC)

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DURATION OF THE PROJECT: September 2021 - August 2026

Data has been conceptualized as the ‘new oil’ and although this is a flawed statement, it captures well the value attached to data as a driver of economic growth and innovation, and as a force of change in all facets of societal life. Accordingly, data has emerged as an important topic in contemporary law and policy. On the one hand, because it is critical to understand whether and how different societal areas have been affected by digital transformations, including disruptive phenomena like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI). On the other hand, because governance toolkits, including legal rules, need to adapt to reflect these implications. 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 – neither do we have a full understanding of the impact of digitization on the entire body of global trade rules, nor have we seen adequate legal adaptation. To put it plainly, despite living in times of industries 4.0, trade rules are grounded at 1.0.

The project addresses these flaws 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 ultimately,

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

The project is financed by the European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant. All project information is available at the project website.


The mapping of the existing rules relevant for data governance includes the creation of the comprehensive dataset TAPED (Trade Agreement Provisions on Electronic Commerce and Data). 

Find out more about TAPED here


Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Mira Burri
Post-doctoral Fellow: Dr. María Vásquez Callo-Müller
Doctoral Fellow: Kholofelo Kugler
Doctoral Fellow: Anja Mesmer