Cybersecurity and digital trade: What role for international trade rules?

By Joshua P. Meltzer – Trade and cybersecurity are increasingly intertwined. The global expansion of the internet and increased use of data flows by businesses and consumers—for communication, e-commerce, and as a source of information and innovation—are transforming international trade. The spread of artificial intelligence, the “internet of things,” (IoT) and cloud computing will accelerate the global connectivity of businesses, governments, and supply chains.

As this connectivity grows, however, so does our exposure to the risks and costs of cyberattacks. As the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Council observed, the U.S. is “faced with a progressively worsening cybersecurity threat environment and an ever-increasing dependence on internet technologies fundamental to public safety, economic prosperity, and overall way of life. Our national security is now inexorably linked to cybersecurity.

Not only are traditional defense and other national security targets at risk of cyberattack, so too is the broader economy. This includes critical infrastructure—such as telecommunications, transport, and health care—which relies on software to network services. There is also cybertheft of intellectual property (IP) and manipulation of online information. More broadly, these risks undermine business and consumer trust in the internet as a basis for commerce and trade.

Many countries are adopting policy measures to respond to the threat. According to one estimate, at least 50 percent of countries have adopted cybersecurity policies and regulations. more>

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