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Absent multilateral cooperation, the global digital economy could splinter, and everyone would pay

Technology wars are becoming the new trade wars.

In the race to dominate the technologies of the future, the competition between the United States and China has led to import and export bans of 5G network technologies, semiconductors, social media platforms, and data-based security applications across multiple countries. Countries are also imposing restrictions on financial market access for foreign tech firms deemed to be security risks. Trade liberalization in digital services is giving way to increased restrictions (see chart). From a classical economic perspective, this escalation makes little sense. In traditional sectors, barriers to trade generally lower economic well-being in all countries involved, as they prevent efficient specialization and limit the variety of goods available.

In the digital era, however, leadership in emerging technologies bestows outsize profits, global market shares, and the ability to set standards. New services built on data, such as artificial intelligence, next generation 5G networks and the internet of things, and quantum computing have opened the way for new growth engines that promise to transform entire industries and lift productivity. This trend toward an increasingly digitalized and networked world has only been accelerated […]

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