This research project is part of the National Research Programme (NRP) 75 ‘Big Data’. It brings together a small interdisciplinary research team, which will, in co-operation with the World Trade Institute of the University of Bern and under the leadership of Mira Burri, examine the pertinent trade rules that impinge on Big Data. The 3-year project started in May 2017 and seeks to achieve not only cutting-edge basic research results but also to have palpable policy impact.


The aim of this project is to map the existing rules of relevance for Big Data applications, as well as for Big Data policies in international, regional and bilateral trade agreements. The project will generate comprehensive information on what the legal status quo is – what is permitted and what not, what may be legally contentious and where there is legal uncertainty.

Employing not only legal but also the analytical tools from international relations and political science, the project will also show how certain regulatory solutions have evolved over time and what the political forces driving these choices have been. This will be linked to an analysis of the changes in domestic law triggered by trade agreements and whether they constrain present and future state actions in the context of Big Data.

Finally, the project will engage in a normative enquiry on the whether and how trade agreements should address questions of data and Big Data, and how decision-makers should optimally use the instruments of international trade law to reflect the changes in the digital economy in a sustainable manner.


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 includes the creation of a comprehensive data collection, comprising norms in e-commerce, intellectual property as well as other norms throught the agreements. This dataset is available to the public as well as easily accesible and reusable for scientists and experts.


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

Postdoctoral Fellow: Dr. iur. Rodrigo Polanco

Doctoral Fellows: MLaw Rahel Schär and Sebastian Klotz