The WTO Disciplines and Trade in Products Powered by Artificial Intelligence: Old Wine and New Wine-skin?

Author:Lei Zhang - Kelly K. Shang
Position:Dean of WTO Chair Institute?China; Dean of School of Trade Negotiations, and Director of Shanghai Centre for Global Economic and Trade Governance, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics. Ph.D. (SUIBE). The author may be contacted at: wtozhanglei@suibe.edu.cn /Address: 620 Gubei Road, Shanghai 200336 P.R. China. - Lecturer...
Pages:31-43
SUMMARY

As goods and services powered by AI continue to proliferate, scholarly opinion seems to consider that current WTO law is insufficient to regulate trade in AI-powered products. The following reasons can help explain this perceived insufficiency of the WTO law: (a) AI-powered products are difficult to categorise within the perceived goods/services dichotomy under WTO law, thus causing uncertainties ... (see full summary)

 
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Lei Zhang
& Kelly K. Shang
∗∗
As goods and services powered by AI continue to proliferate, scholarly opinion seems
to consider that current WTO law is insufficient to regulate trade in AI-powered
products. The following reasons can help explain this perceived insufficiency of the
WTO law: (a) AI-powered products are difficult to categorise within the perceived
goods/services dichotomy under WTO law, thus causing uncertainties as to the
applicable legal regime; and (b) the WTO law has yet to respond to the need for national
governments to strike a balance between trade and controversial trade practices
regarding AI-powered products. This paper argues that while current WTO law is
far from perfect, it does partly regulate trade in AI-powered products. The following
observations substantiate the partial regulation of trade in AI-powered products by the
WTO law: (a) AI-powered products cannot escape existing WTO disciplines on trade
in goods and trade in services, by virtue of either the involvement of AI or the perceived
goods/services dichotomy; and (b) efforts to balance trade/non-trade interests associated
with trade in AI-powered products are allowed under the GATT/GATS public
morals and security exceptions.
Keywords
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Dean of WTO Chair Institute– China; Dean of School of Trade Negotiations, and Director of Shanghai Centre for Global
Economic and Trade Governance, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics. Ph.D. (SUIBE). The
author may be contacted at: wtozhanglei@suibe.edu.cn / Address: 620 Gubei Road, Shanghai 200336 P.R. China.
∗∗ Lecturer at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics; Fellow of the World Trade Institute (WTI) at the
University of Bern. J.D. (St. John’s College, Hong Kong), Ph.D. (Maastricht). The author may be contacted at: kellyshang.
nl@gmail.com / Address: 100 Royal Parade, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia. She gives thanks to Ms. Rachel R Du, Master
of Advanced Studies in International Law and Economics (MILE) Candidate, WTI for her research assistance.
The WTO Disciplines and
Trade in Products Powered

Old Wine and
New Wine-skin?
J. EAST ASIA & INTL L. Vol. 12/No.1 (2019); 31-44
Publication type : Research Article
Section : Issue Focus
DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14330/jeail.2019.12.1.02

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