Executive Education Program

Digital Trade and the Data Driven Economy

About the Program

In this executive education program, we will examine both digital trade issues and the evolution of the data-driven economy.  Today, thanks to data flows that underpin the internet, we can work, study, search for jobs, and socialize online. When we do these tasks online, we send ever more data across borders. Because many of these cross-border data flows are directly or indirectly associated with commercial transactions, these data flows are essentially “traded.” According to the US Government, these data flows comprise the fastest growing area of trade. In the meantime, innovators and entrepreneurs are using data to establish new services such as personalized medicine as well as growth sectors such as apps, internet-connected devices (the internet of things), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Recognizing the rapid growth of digital trade, many nations such as the US, Canada, China, and the EU are now seeking to use trade agreements to encourage both digital trade (goods and services delivered via the internet) and the data driven economy.

However, online technologies are changing so fast that trade practitioners, executives, diplomats, policymakers, and civil society officials have little training in these developments. This program offers a unique opportunity to gain critical insights from key industry players and scholars.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will understand:

  • the meaning of data flows, digital trade, and digital protectionism;
  • how the internet, and data driven sectors are changing trade;
  • how governments can effectively regulate the new digital economy;
  • how new technologies such as AI are changing digital trade; and
  • why policymakers are struggling to develop rules to cover these evolving technologies.

Who Should Register

Business executives, government officials, diplomats, congressional staff, members of the press, and others with professional interests and responsibilities in international trade, investment, internet governance, economic development, and/or related policies.

Program Schedule and Agenda

The Academic Chair will provide students with a list of articles (and links) for each weekly class. We ask that participants review these readings in preparation for each class. The Academic Chair will introduce each topic and present key questions. In addition, each class will have a guest lecturer, who will provide an additional perspective.

After the overview and lecture, we will engage in group discussions, debates, and case studies. Classes will be held on Tuesdays from 7:10 pm to 9:00 pm at the Elliott School of International Affairs. This program is non-credit, but students will receive a certificate of completion from the Institute at the end of the program. Students do not need a background in trade, the internet, or economics to participate in the program.

  1. Tuesday, Jan 30, 2018 – How is the internet changing who, what, and how we trade? Can these changes be measured?
    Guest Lecturer: Joshua S. Meltzer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
  2. Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018 – How do governments use trade agreements to encourage and govern digital trade? How have these chapters changed over time and how do these chapters relate to the agreement as a whole? What are the differences between U.S., E.U., and Chinese models of trade agreements?
    Guest Lecturer: Alan Elias, Senior Manager for Global Public Policy at eBay
  3. Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018 – What is digital protectionism and how does it affect digital rights, cyber-security and innovation?
    Guest Lecturer: Usman Ahmed, Director, Public Policy, PayPal
  4. Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 – How are new technologies changing country’s positions on data flows (e.g. the role of AI, IoT) and what does that mean for trade policies?
    Guest Lecturer: Matt Schruers, Vice President for Law and Policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA)

Program Details

Academic Chair: Professor Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ph.D.
Program Director: Kyle Renner, Phone: 202-994-5230
Email: iiepexec@gwu.edu Website: www.gwu.edu/~iiep/
Program Length: 4 two-hour sessions
Tuition: $1,400 before January 5, 2017; $1,600 after January 5, 2018
Contact saaronso@gwu.edu with any questions about the program.

About the Academic Chair

Susan Ariel Aaronson is Research Professor of International Affairs and a Cross-Disciplinary Fellow at The George Washington University. She is also Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada. Her research focuses on the comparative data-driven economy, digital protectionism, digital rights, and the interplay of trade and human rights. Aaronson taught the first U.S. course on digital trade in 2014. Aaronson is the author of many publications on digital trade and has received grants from the MacArthur, Ford and Hewlett Foundations for her work on these issues.

About the Speakers

Joshua S. Meltzer is a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution and an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins-SAIS where he teaches international trade law. At Brookings, Meltzer works on international trade law and policy issues with a focus on the World Trade Organization and large free trade agreements such as the TPP.

Alan Elias is a Senior Manager for Global Public Policy, GW alumnus and a member of the eBay Public Policy Lab with a focus on the Americas. Prior to eBay, Alan was a VP at Mercury Public Affairs, where he advised clients on a broad portfolio of issues including technology, international commerce and trade, taxation, cybersecurity, intellectual property, and defense. He also worked on Capitol Hill for nearly ten years serving as a policy advisor to Senators’ Ron Johnson, John McCain, and Norm Coleman.

Usman Ahmed is the Head of Global Public Policy at PayPal Inc. His work covers a variety of global issues including financial services regulation, innovation, international trade, and entrepreneurship. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law School where he teaches a course on Fintech Law and Policy. Prior to PayPal, he worked at a number of policy think tanks in DC on similar issues.

Matt Schruers is Vice President for Law & Policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), where he represents and advises the association on domestic and international policy issues including intellectual property, competition, and trade. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where he teaches courses on intellectual property. Mr. Schruers joined CCIA from Morrison & Foerster LLP in 2005, where he practiced intellectual property, antitrust, and administrative law.

About the Institute

The Elliott School of International Affairs’ Institute for International Economic Policy (IIEP) serves as a catalyst for high quality, multi-disciplinary, and non-partisan research on policy issues surrounding economic globalization. The Institute helps develop effective policy options and academic analysis in a time of growing controversies about international economic integration.


To register, interested parties should complete the form at go.gwu.edu/digitaltradeexed by January 20th. Payment must be received prior to January 22nd. Participants can pay for the class with check or money order made out to “IIEP-GWU.” In the “Subject” line please write Digital Trade Program. Please send them to the address below:

Kyle Renner, Digital Trade Program
Institute for International Economic Policy
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St., NW, Suite 502
Washington, D.C. 20052

GWU reserves the right to cancel the program if enrollment is less than 8 students. In that unlikely event, the Institute will refund the program fees.


The Institute for International Economic Policy (IIEP), which is located within the Elliott School of International Affairs, serves as a catalyst for high quality, multi-disciplinary, and non-partisan research on policy issues surrounding economic globalization. The Institute research program helps develop effective policy options and academic analysis in a time of growing controversies about international economic integration in many countries around the world. The institute's work also encompasses policy responses for those who face continued poverty and financial crises despite worldwide economic growth. Affiliated faculty have appointments in the departments of economics, history, and political science as well as the law and business schools.

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