ICT Standards Bodies as Institutions of Global Economic Governance: What Role for the WTO?

Standardization of information and communication technologies has become a quintessential part of the global economic activity. ICT standards support technical infrastructure, bolster (e)-commerce and rule digital markets, creating normative expectations for the industry; they also have a far-reaching regulatory, political, economic and societal consequences. ICT standards are produced by private standards bodies that have largely managed to escape the purview of the WTO. However, due to their increasing regulatory impact and the importance for international trade, this “status quo” of ICT standards and ICT standards bodies can no longer be neglected. Moreover, the political economy of standardization, as well as the growing role of non-Western actors as leaders of global standardization efforts, puts into question the adequacy of the current WTO framework for standardization. This paper to tailor this framework to the current practices in ICT standardization.