JEAIL > Volume 12(1); 2019 > Issue Focus
Research Paper
Published online: May 30, 2019

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

Lei Zhang & Kelly K. Shang
620 Gubei Road, Shanghai 200336 P.R. China.
Corresponding Author:

ⓒ Copyright YIJUN Institute of International Law
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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 : Artificial Intelligence, AI, WTO Law, Trade in AI-powered Products

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