The Regulation of AI-enabled Trade under WTO Law

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Artificial intelligence (AI) has disrupted almost every facet of our lives. We experience AI technology in our ‘smart’ kitchens, phones, and cars and also when we are scrolling through our social media platforms or shopping online. It is fair to say that AI is ubiquitous. While AI has resulted in positive economic and efficiency gains, it also raises issues of privacy protection, national security, and entrenching existing bias and inequalities. As a result, there has been a proliferation of private standards, as well as national, regional, and international instruments seeking to harness the power, and regulate the inimical effects, of AI technologies. While rulemaking at the multilateral level, specifically at the World Trade Organization (WTO), has been absent thus far, WTO law is technology neutral and has been interpreted in an evolutionary manner that allows WTO Members’ commitments that were undertaken in the analogue era to continue to be relevant in the digital age. However, this piecemeal and fragmented regulation is far from perfect and leaves many AI-idiosyncratic areas, including data, unregulated. In this dissertation I provide an overview of the WTO law relating to the regulation of trade in goods, services, and intellectual property that is enabled by AI. It is not an exhaustive treaties of WTO law. Rather, it seeks to highlight the main disciplines, while identifying lacunae and areas of ambiguity. I conclude with some preliminary views on areas that could be included in any future multilateral agreement regulating the trade-related aspects of AI.
A research report submitted in fulfilling the requirements of the Research Master of Laws degree of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, School of laws, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023
Artificial intelligence, International trade, WTO law, GATT 1994, GATS, TRIPS, TBT Agreement, Digital trade law, UCTD
Kugler, Kholofelo. (2023). The Regulation of AI-enabled Trade under WTO Law [Master’s dissertation , University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg]. WireDSpace.