Susan Ariel Aaronson

photo: Susan Aaronson
Research Professor of International Affairs, GWU Cross-Disciplinary Fellow, and Senior Fellow, Center for International Governance Innovation
604 B Elliott School of International Affairs
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

International trade; WTO, digital trade; digital rights and Internet governance; protectionism; good governance, anti-corruption, and transparency; economic growth and human rights.

  • The Challenge of Digital l Protectionism
  • AI and Trade
  • China's data-driven economy
  • A Human rights approach to data
  • The decline in labor rights and its implications for economic growth and political stability

Curriculum Vitae

Susan Ariel Aaronson is Research Professor of International Affairs and GWU Cross-Disciplinary Fellow at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. She is also a Senior Fellow at the think tank Center for International Governance Innovation (GIGI) in Canada.  Aaronson was also the Carvalho Fellow at the Government Accountability Project and the Minerva Chair at the National War College. Aaronson’s research examines the relationship between economic change and human rights. She is currently directing projects on digital trade and protectionism, and she also works on AI and trade and a new human rights approach to data. Her research on digital protectionism is funded by the Hewlett Foundation; earlier work has been funded by major international foundations including MacArthur, Ford, and Rockefeller; governments such as the Netherlands, U.S., and Canada; the UN, ILO, and World Bank, and U.S. corporations including Ford Motor and Levi Strauss. Dr. Aaronson is a frequent speaker on public understanding of globalization issues and international economic developments. She regularly comments on international economics on "Marketplace" and was a monthly commentator on "All Things Considered," and "Morning Edition." She has also appeared on CNN, the BBC, and PBS to discuss trade and globalization issues. Aaronson was a Guest Scholar in Economics at the Brookings Institution (1995–1999); and a Research Fellow at the World Trade Institute 2008-2012.

Dr. Aaronson is a member of the Advisory Board for Human Rights Under Pressure (a doctoral program funded by the German and Israeli government to teach human rights); and the Advisory Board of Business and Human Aaronson is also the Director of the eBay Policy Scholars (a masters fellowship on digital trade). In recent years, she has been a pro-bono advisor to the UN Special Representative on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. She has also consulted for the ILO; the World Bank; Free the Slaves; the Ford Foundation; the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; the Progressive Policy Institute the Stanley Foundation; several corporations; and the governments of Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands, among others. In her spare time, Aaronson enjoys triathlons and ballet. Aaronson frequently writes op-eds on globalization topics.

Current Research

As part of the Global Digital Protectionism Project, Dr. Aaronson is doing a global survey. Please take the survey here.


Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University


With Patrick LeBlond, “Another Digital Divide: The Rise of Data Realms and its Implications for the WTO,” Journal of International Economic Law

“What Are We Talking About When We Discuss Digital Protectionism?,”Forthcoming, World Trade Review: 2018 (Winter)

Book Chapters

“The Turn to Trade Agreements to Regulate the Internet,” in Jean-Baptise Velut et al., in Understanding Mega-Free Trade Agreements: The Political and Economic Governance of New Cross-Regionalism, Routledge: 2017.  

Governance Spillovers of labor Provisions in Free Trade Agreements,” pp. 108-113, in ILO, Handbook on Assessment of Labor Provisions in Trade and Investment Arrangements, Geneva, Switzerland.  2017

Policy Briefs and Working Papers

Data Minefield: How AI is Prodding Governments to Rethink Trade in Data” 

Information Please: A Comprehensive Approach to Digital Trade Provisions in NAFTA 2.0, CIGI Paper No. 154

Classes Taught

HIST 6031 History of International Economic Systems: the WTO and the Bretton Woods Institutions

IAFF 6198 Special Topics in International Trade and Investment Policy

  • Trade Issues and Strategies
  • Digital Trade and Global Governance Issues
  • Corruption, Development and Good Governance