Q1/2019 - World Trade Organization (WTO)

Davos, 27 January 2019

76 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a joint declaration in Davos on 27 January 2019 in which they announce that they will hold separate negotiations about an international agreement on electronic commerce.[1] No consensus could be reached at the preceding ministerial conference of the WTO in Buenos Aires in December 2017 to include all 164 WTO members in such negotiations.

The rationale behind the decision of the 76 members is their conviction that stable framework conditions are required for the booming digital e-commerce market. In their opinion, the current “patchwork of rules” (national, bilateral or regional agreements) impedes a global trade of data and is detrimental to both producers and customers in developed and developing countries alike. The negotiations now planned aim at a universal multilateral agreement that would also and particularly benefit small and medium-sized enterprises that depend on stable and reliable global rules.

The EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström commented the statement as follows: “It is encouraging to see so many partners joining this important trade initiative. Electronic commerce is a reality in most corners of the world, so we owe it to our citizens and companies to provide a predictable, effective and safe online environment for trade. We look forward to working with all interested WTO members, flexibly and pragmatically, to create a truly comprehensive and ambitious set of rules.”[2]

The new rules aim to reach five targets:

  1. improve consumers' trust in the on-line environment and combat spam,
  2. tackle barriers that prevent cross-border sales,
  3. guarantee validity of e-contracts and e-signatures,
  4. permanently ban customs duties on electronic transmissions,
  5. address forced data localisation requirements and forced disclosure of source code
Mehr zum Thema
  1. [1] The statement reads: “We welcome the progress made toward WTO negotiations on electronic commerce since the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference at Buenos Aires. We confirm our intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce. We will seek to achieve a high standard outcome that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO Members as possible. We recognise and will take into account the unique opportunities and challenges faced by Members, including developing countries and LDCs, as well as by micro, small and medium sized enterprises, in relation to electronic commerce. We continue to encourage all WTO Members to participate in order to further enhance the benefits of electronic commerce for businesses, consumers and the global economy.”, see: Joint Statement on Electronic Commerce, WTO document WT/L/23016, Davos, 25 January 2019, http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2019/january/tradoc_157643.pdf. The joint statement was signed by the governments of Albania; Argentina; Australia; Bahrain, Kingdom of; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; El Salvador; European Union; Georgia; Honduras; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Israel; Japan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait, the State of; Lao PDR; Liechtenstein; Malaysia; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Mongolia; Montenegro; Myanmar; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Norway; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Qatar; Russian Federation; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Turkey; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United States and Uruguay.