There has been moves to include digital trade issues in a number of different trade agreements. This includes at a global, regional and bilateral level

The digital trade rules included tend to be disciplining. Signatories typically agree not to institute certain digital rules or actions at a national level.

Trade agreements will typically cover a number of different areas. Even if nations have very small digital sectors, they may face cross-sectoral retaliations if they break rules. In many cases, even the threat of retaliations is enough to discipline nations

In this section we highlight agenda-setting trade agreements around digital trade:

The World Trade Organisation (WTO)

The WTO E-commerce Work Program has existed since 1998. In recent years digital trade issues have become more controversial in the WTO.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was the first regional agreement to include a substantial digital trade chapter.

It was not ratified when the US withdrew, but the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) continues with similar rules


The US-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA), recently ratified includes a significant digital trade chapter


The US has set the agenda on digital trade, and a number of its free trade agreements (FTA) and ongoing negotiations include digital trade rules


The digital trade focus within EU free trade agreements has been less that the US, but is evolving over time

Japan FTA

Japan is one of the countries pushing a liberalising agenda around digital trade. To this end, a number of Japanese free trade agreements have included sections on digital trade

Image Credit: Leaders at TPP agreement – Gobierno de Chile – CC BY 2.0