The Governance of Big Data in Trade Agreements

Regulating Big Data across borders poses a dilemma. On the one hand, this type of
regulation challenges the sovereignty of states. On the other hand, it may constitute
a significant barrier to free trade and impede the growth of the digital economy. Solving this dilemma involves difficult political choices. Decision-makers must have the
necessary information and a profound understanding of the big picture to balance the trade-offs. Trade rules form an important part of this picture.



The project demonstrates the ways in which international trade law applies to Big Data. It will map the existing rules for Big Data applications and current Big Data policies in international, regional and bilateral trade agreements. Employing legal and analytical tools from international relations and political science, the project explores how certain regulatory solutions and the political forces behind them have evolved over time. It will in addition analyse the changes in domestic law triggered by trade agreements and the ways in which these agreements may limit present and future state actions in the context of Big Data.
Finally, the project asks whether and how trade agreements should address questions of data and Big Data, and how decision-makers can use the instruments of international trade law to reflect changes in the digital economy and ensure that vital public interests, such as the protection of privacy, are adequately safeguarded.



The estimated benefit from the project is significant. The generated dataset will be valuable in its own right and useful for other research and policy efforts. The project’s interdisciplinary research on the governance of Big Data in trade agreements will be an important contribution to the existing literature and will strengthen Swiss competence on these global issues. The project aims to formulate specific recommendations on appropriate design for Big Data matters in trade agreements – in particular for Switzerland.



The mapping of the existing rules relevant for Big Data applications included the creation of the comprehensive data set TAPED (Trade Agreement Provisions on Electronic Commerce and Data), comprising norms in e-commerce, intellectual property as well as other norms throughout the agreements. This dataset is available to the public as well as easily accessible and reusable for scientists and experts.

Find out more about TAPED here




The project entailed a sucessfully held conference "Big Data and Global Trade Law", which took place on the 16th and 17th of November 2018 in Lucerne.

More information here






Project Leader: PD Dr. Mira Burri; Co-Leader: Prof. Manfred Elsig

Doctoral Fellow: MLaw Rahel Schär







Postdoctoral Fellow: Dr. iur. Rodrigo Polanco

Doctoral Fellow: Sebastian Klotz