Opinion Piece: Topology of E-Commerce Governance

Nicholas Frank, Associate Lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University.

Global e-commerce is governed by a dense web of preferential trade agreements (PTAs). While the literature on e-commerce governance is growing, our knowledge of the landscape of the e-commerce governance system remains limited.Mapping the current architecture of the system reveals important structural features and properties – such as the degree of fragmentation, polycentricism, and complexity – which can have an impact on system outcomes.

This piece introduces a new working paper   that presents a novel network analysis of the architecture of the e-commerce governance regime.

Visualizing the e-commerce governance network

Visualization is one of the draw cards of network analysis as it can reveal important structural attributes of a system in an accessible manner. Figure 1 depicts the e-commerce governance network in 2020 using a force-directed algorithm.

Countries are colour coded according to their level of development (green for high income countries, purple for upper-middle income countries, orange for lower-middle countries, and blue for low-income countries). The size of each country’s node is weighted according to the number of trade agreements with e-commerce provisions to which it is party. The ties between countries (i.e. trade agreements) are colour coded based on the scope of their e-commerce or data flow provisions. Agreements with more than 1500 words relating to e-commerce or data flow regulation are coded green, those with between 1000-1500 words are coded black, those with between 500-1000 are coded red, those with less than 500 words are coded purple.