OECD Trade Policy Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected trade policy studies prepared for use within the OECD.

NB. No. 1 to No. 139 were released under the previous series title OECD Trade Policy Working Papers.


Digital Trade

Developing a Framework for Analysis

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.


Keywords: e-commerce, Digitalisation, digital transformation, international trade, platforms, data
JEL: F02: International Economics / General / International Economic Order and Integration; F68: International Economics / Economic Impacts of Globalization / Economic Impacts of Globalization: Policy; F19: International Economics / Trade / Trade: Other; L14: Industrial Organization / Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance / Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation; Networks; F55: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy / International Institutional Arrangements; L81: Industrial Organization / Industry Studies: Services / Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce; F42: International Economics / Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance / International Policy Coordination and Transmission; L22: Industrial Organization / Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior / Firm Organization and Market Structure; L86: Industrial Organization / Industry Studies: Services / Information and Internet Services; Computer Software; F13: International Economics / Trade / Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations; O14: Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth / Economic Development / Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
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