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The Role of Digital Products Under the WTO: A New Framework for GATT and GATS Classification

Sam Fleuter  Abstract This Comment provides a new system of classifying digital products as goods or services under international trade law. Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), WTO member states have limited power to impose protectionist measures on the importation of goods. Under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), states face similar limitations on their ability to restrict international trade in services. But GATS only applies if states opt in, meaning that countries can choose which services are subject to trade liberalization. Within the GATT-GATS framework, digital products are notoriously difficult to classify because they possess traditional characteristics of both goods and services. Though this Comment applies to different types of digital products, it focuses on the international trade of 3D renderings used for additive manufacturing, as this is a type of digital product that has not received any attention in international trade literature. This Comment proposes a three-part taxonomy for distinguishing digital goods from digital services. To distinguish goods from services, I first look at formalistic definitions of good and services. Next, I look at practical concerns of consistency across international trade. Finally, I investigate the underlying goals of the WTO to identify which classification best suits digital products. I conclude that digital products should be treated as services and therefore be governed by the GATS.

Weaponizing Digital Trade.

from Councilo on Foreign Relations, which is a private non-democratic non governmental group that, like the Atlantic Council often takes extreme neoliberal positions and often, tries to look like part of the government, and pretend that neoliberalism is inevitable and, its assertions credible. As the last few years have shown, people are beginning to realize that if the world has democracy, then it has a choice to reject neoliberalism and neoliberals greed centered global coup. They don't own us.

World Economic Forum: a history and analysis (TNI)

"These findings raise a number of red flags. Defending institutions, as demonstrated recently by the media solidarity with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, is one important function of journalism. But the close-knit relationship between the World Economic Forum and many media outlets systematically undermines another, potentially even more important, function of journalism (and social science): questioning institutions. What does it mean to be a responsible journalist? Perhaps we should return to Susan George's description of the responsible social scientist: "The job of the responsible social scientist is first to uncover these forces [of wealth, power and control], to write about them clearly, without jargon ... and finally ... to take an advocacy position in favour of the disadvantaged, the underdogs, the victims of injustice." When media outlets no longer question powerful institutions such as the World Economic Forum, what's the difference between a journalist and a PR manager? Journalists have a choice on whether they satisfy their principals' agendas or if they serve the truth. If all they do is echo the official message, readers will have no choice but to look elsewhere for information."

TISA - backdoor services liberalisation on a global level!

The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) currently under negotiation on the side-line of the World Trade Organization (WTO) poses significant deregulatory threats for the majority of services sectors. International trade in services is dealt with by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and its annexes. Each WTO country so far autonomously decides which sectors are to be opened up to cross-border competition. Services sectors liberalisation is carried out once governments gave their explicit agreement to do so (positive lists). TISA intends to reverse this logic and implement a negative listing of liberalisation commitments. Only explicitly targeted sectors in the agreement would not be subject to further liberalisation. This poses significant risks of liberalising all services sectors of the economy unless explicitly exempted from the agreement. TISA would contain “Standstill” and “Ratchet” clauses. Standstill clauses effectively freeze the degrees of regulation in particular sectors and countries are no longer free to implement more strident regulatory provisions. A recently leaked text showed that the financial services industry, through TISA, intends to freeze international financial regulatory efforts by setting a minimum regulatory floor which could not be subsequently superseded by any government wishing so. Ratchet clauses effectively impede government to reverse achieved liberalisation floors. Once a sector is liberalised, there cannot be a turning back. These clauses mean that governments will no longer be able to challenge decisions and choices made by previous governments. The combination of the ratchet and standstill clauses renders the reversal of liberalisation levels impossible. Additionally, TISA could prescribe necessity tests for regulatory measures. Governments would have to prove the necessity of a regulatory instrument before implementing it. For example, in a discussion of universal coverage, a Government would have to prove the necessity of re-regulating already privatised services such as postal services.