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Trade Commitments and Data Flows: The National Security Wildcard: Reconciling Passenger Name Record Transfer Agreements and European GATS Obligations



This paper poses a hypothetical WTO challenge to the Passenger Name Records (PNR) Transfer Agreements the European Union has signed with the United States (as well as Australia and Canada). The focus will be on a possible citation of GATS Article XIV National Security Exception by the EU, and the viability of such a defense. Because of the absence of case law, this paper will also attempt to synthesize an acceptable standard for assessing GATS National Security Exception citations.


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1 Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (hereinafter Data Protection Directive).

2 See EU Commission explanation for adequacy opinion process at: (accessed 17 December 2017).

3 Appellate Body Report, United States – Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services, WT/DS285/AB/R, adopted 20 April 2005, DSR 2005:XII (hereinafter US–Gambling).

4 An agreement allowing American Companies to Transfer data of EU citizens back to the United States, under the condition that the American company declare to the FTC their compliance with a privacy protection regime.

5 Shapiro, Eric, ‘All Is Not Fair In The Privacy Trade: The Safe Harbor Agreement and the World Trade Organisation’, 71 Fordham Law Review (2003), 2781.

6 GATS Article XIV(3) (1994).

7 GATS Article XIV bis (1994).

8 Agreement between the European Union and Australia on the Processing and Transfer of European Union-Sourced Passenger Name Record (PNR) Data by Air Carriers to the Australian Customs Service, Official Journal L 213, 08/08/2008 P. 0049–0057.

9 Agreement between the European Community and the Government of Canada on the Processing of Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record Data, Official Journal L 082, 21/03/2006 P. 0015–0019.

10 Agreement between the United States of America and the European Union on the Use and Transfer of Passenger Name Records to the United States Department of Homeland Security, Official Journal L 0215, 11/08/2012 P. 5-0014 (hereinafter ‘EU–USA PNR Agreement’).

11 EU schedule of exemptions for GATS searchable in database available at: (accessed 18 December 2017).

12 GATS Article II (1994).

13 GATS Article XVI (1994).

14 GATS Article XVII (1994).

15 Article 8 EU–USA PNR Agreement.

16 GATS Article 1(3) (1994).

17 Markus Krajewski, Public Services and the Scope of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), (accessed 4 December 2017).

18 GATS – Facts and Fiction, (accessed 12 January 2017).

19 Legal Services, ‘Background Note by the Secretariat’, 6 July 1998, S/C/W/43, p. 4, No. 15.

20 WTO Secretariat, ‘Market Access: Unfinished Business, Post-Uruguay Round Inventory and Special Study No. 6’, Geneva, April 2001, (accessed 2 December 2017).

21 For instance, the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing scheme consisting of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, see (accessed 30 November 2017).

22 Appellate Body Report, Canada – Certain Measures Affecting the Automotive Industry, WT/DS139/AB/R, WT/DS/XIV2/AB/R, AB-2000-2 (31 May 2000) [155] (Canada–Autos).

23 GATS Service Sectoral Classification List (‘W/120’) and the UN Provisional Central Product Classification (‘CPC’) for categorizing activities as goods or services.

24 European Union schedule of commitments under GATS, (accessed 15 November 2017).

25 Further explanation of MFN Principle at: (accessed 17 December 2017).

26 Appellate Body Report, European Communities – Regime for the Importation, Sale and Distribution of Bananas, WT/DS27/AB/R, 25 September 1997, DSR 1997:II, p. 591.

27 GATS Article XIV(1)(a) bis (1994).

29 Views of Adam Golodner, Senior Counsel at law firm Arnold Porter Kaye Scholer.

30 M. Woods, GATT Article XXI's National Security Exception – The Ultimate Trade Policy Conundrum, (accessed 24 November2017).

32 Reyes, C. L., ‘WTO – Compliant Protection of Fundamental Rights: Lessons From the Privacy Directive’, Melbourne Journal of International Law, 12(1) (2001).

33 M. Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, Editorial, ‘A Tool We Need to Stop the Next Airliner Plot’, Washington Post, 29 August 2006, at A15.

34 E. Lipton and S. Shane, US Officials Say Plot Shows Need for More Sharing of Passenger Data’, New York Times, 15 August 2006, at A13.

35 See EU–USA PNR Agreement Negotiation Documents, (accessed 17 December 2017).

36 GATT Article XXI Security Exceptions, (accessed 17 December 2017)

37 See, US–Gambling.

39 See, US-Gambling.

41 Cottier, T., Delimatsis, P., and Diebold, N. F., ‘Article XIV GATS: General Exceptions’, Max Planck Commentaries on World Trade Law, WTO – Trade In Services, Wolfrum, R., Stoll, P.-T., and Feinäugle, C. (eds.), Vol. 6, pp. 287328, Leiden/Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (2008), SSRN:

42 GATS Article XIV Chapeau (1994).

43 Russia is the 11th largest economy in the world. Statistics sourced from: (accessed 30 November 2017).

44 Database containing terrorist incidents per country, (accessed 30 November 2017).

45 Joint Statement: Beginning of Negotiations between Mexico and the European Union on PNR Data Transmission, (accessed 17 December 2017).

46 Appellate Body Report, United States – Import Prohibition of Certain Shrimp and Shrimp Products, WT/DS58/AB/R, 6 November 1998, DSR 1998:VII, p. 2755.

47 Cottier et al., ‘Article XIV GATS: General Exceptions’, supra n. 41.

48 US–Gambling, at 122.

49 Reyes, ‘WTO – Compliant Protection of Fundamental Rights’, supra n. 32.

51 Joint Statement: Beginning of Negotiations between Mexico and the European Union on PNR Data Transmission, supra n. 45.

52 What is the Five Eyes Intelligence Pact?, (accessed 17 December 2017).

53 An international organization that serves as an administrative and information facilitating function between national police forces.

Trade Commitments and Data Flows: The National Security Wildcard: Reconciling Passenger Name Record Transfer Agreements and European GATS Obligations



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