Susan Ariel Aaronson

photo: Susan Aaronson
Research Professor and Director of the Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub, also GWU Cross-Disciplinary Fellow and Senior Fellow at CIGI
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

International trade, WTO, digital trade, digital rights, data governance, internet governance, protectionism, good governance, anti-corruption, 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 Director of the Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub. Aaronson conceived of and directs the Hub, which aims to educate policymakers, the press and the public about domestic and international data governance issues from digital trade to public data governance. Aaronson is also a Cross-Disciplinary Fellow and also 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 mapping data governance; and writing on comparative advantage in data; data and national security, and America’s approach to stimulating AI. Her research has been funded by the Hewlett, MacArthur, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations; 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

Mapping domestic and global governance of data; US AI policies and our data-driven future; Developing country and data governance; Comparative advantage and data governance; Data governance and national security.

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


Data is Different and that’s Why the world Needs a new Approach to Governing Cross-Border Data Flows, Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance, May 2019.

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

Data is a Development Issue, July 2019.

A Plurilateral “Single Data Area” Is the Solution to Canada’s Data Trilemma, with Patrick LeBlond, September 2019, forthcoming, CIGI.

America’s Uneven Approach to AI and its Consequences, Great Decisions, Foreign Policy Association.

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-Baptiste 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.


Senior Fellow, CIGI

GWU Cross-Disciplinary Fellow former Minerva Chair, National War College

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