WTO address worry over digital technology, IDP regulatory fragmentation

In a bid to address the regulatory fragmentation of digital technologies and intangible digital goods (IDPs), member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been urged to conform to international standards.

At meetings of the TBT Committee, the WTO members aired a total of 68 trade concerns, 10 of which were raised for the first time, regarding digital issues, public health concerns and product standards, among other topics.

Given the nature of accompanying issues such as privacy, they also discussed regulatory cooperation on cybersecurity and IDPs as well as limits of harmonization, adding that internationally harmonised regulations and technical assistance can help small companies improve regulatory compliance in this area.

Speakers at the event emphasized on international standards as key to countering cybersecurity threats, citing the work of standard-setting agencies.

They added that government and private sector stakeholders need to work in a coordinated and collaborative manner with standard-making bodies to address cybersecurity concerns and digital governance.

Members also highlighted particular challenges regarding regulating emerging digital technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and their associated IDPs.

These challenges relate to the changing properties of these products as they evolve and the fact that regulating these technologies encompasses issues such as privacy, and ethics that are less prone to harmonisation, thus increasing the chance of significant regulatory fragmentation across WTO members.

The TBT Agreement, including its provisions on transparency, was highlighted as being of particular importance for cybersecurity regulation.

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