This article discusses ways in which the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and post-GATS free trade agreements may limit the EU's ability to regulate privacy and personal data protection as fundamental rights. After discussing this issue in two dimensions – the vertical relationship between trade and national and European Union (EU) law, and the horizontal relationship between trade and human rights law – the author concludes that these limits are real and pose serious risks.
Inspired by recent developments in safeguarding labour, and environmental standards and sustainable development, the article argues that privacy and personal data protection should be part of, and protected by, international trade deals made by the EU. The EU should negotiate future international trade agreements with the objective of allowing them to reflect the normative foundations of privacy and personal data protection. This article suggests a specific way to achieve this objective.