Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chander: International Trade and Internet Freedom

Anupam Chander (Univ. of California, Davis - Law) has posted International Trade and Internet Freedom (American Society of International Law, Proceedings, Vol. 102, p. 37, 2008). Here's the abstract:

Can trade liberalization serve the cause of political liberalization in authoritarian states? In this short essay, I suggest that trade law might bolster political freedoms by liberalizing Internet trade. Trade law puts pressure on state repression of information through two principal mechanisms.

First, GATS transparency obligations require what is often absent in authoritarian states – a set of public rules that governs both citizens and governmental authorities. WTO member states must publish regulations governing services and establish inquiry points where foreign service providers can obtain information about such regulations. A publication requirement written for the benefit of foreigners may prove even more useful for local citizens, who will be given the opportunity to understand the rules that bind them – and the opportunity therefore to challenge those rules or their interpretation.

Second, the market access and national treatment commitments provide opportunities for foreign information service providers to disseminate information that local information service providers might eschew. While censorship by itself may not necessarily constitute either a market access or a national treatment violation, it might do so if it is operationalized in ways that effectively discriminate against foreign service providers.