ZOOM and other video communications logos are displayed on a phone screen, in this illustration. Thessaloniki, Greece April 24, 2020.

Publication Type

Digital agreements: What’s covered, what’s possible

Gary Clyde Hufbauer (PIIE) and Megan Hogan (PIIE)

Policy Briefs 21-22
Photo Credit: NurPhoto/Nicolas Economou


Rapidly expanding digital flows have significantly contributed to world economic growth. The exponential expansion of digital flows since 2005 has partially compensated for lethargic growth in global conventional trade and foreign direct investment flows. COVID-19 accelerated the digital revolution in 2020, as businesses and consumers increasingly “went digital” in everything from online education and work to shopping. Many countries, particularly the United States, have enormous commercial and cultural interests in preserving the freedom of cross-border digital traffic. Strong international agreements can keep digital highways open, but agreements reached so far do too little to discipline government practices that threaten to restrict digital flows, allowing ample room for ideological and protectionist obstacles. A new and better agreement is necessary to safeguard the growth of digital flows.