Q1/2020 - World Trade Organization (WTO)

Joint statement discussion on e-commerce, Davos, 19 January 2020

The discussion about a future joint statement on e-commerce within the framework of WTO was continued with a workshop on 19 January 2020 at the Davos World Economic Forum. The e-commerce moratorium concluded in 1998 will expire in June 2020. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo expressed his appreciation for the progress that has been made since the G20 Summit in June 2019 and for the Japanese Osaka Track initiative (Free Flow for Trusted Data/FFTD). He said that more and more WTO member states joined the debate. The WTO was the right forum for such kind of negotiations. If no comprehensive agreement could be reached at the upcoming 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, partial agreements could certainly be considered a step forward, too. However, if the attendants parted without having reached any agreement and merely adopted a “stocktaking” or a “roadmap”, this would be a missed opportunity, said Azevêdo[1]. On 24 March 2020, Kazakhstan, the host of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled for June 2020, had announced a postponement due to the Corona pandemic.

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  1. [1] Joint Statement on E-commerce, Davos meeting, Roberto Azevedo, Davos, 19 January 2020: „I would just like to leave you with two thoughts: First, continue to keep this process inclusive and open. This means doing it at the WTO. It is essential that issues fundamental to the 21st century economy, such as e-commerce, are debated at the WTO. At the same time, negotiating rules at the WTO will enhance their legitimacy and geographical coverage, since the door will be open to other members to get informed and join if they so wish. Second, use MC12 to show that you mean business. Substantive deliverables on e-commerce — if not full agreements, then concrete negotiating texts or partial agreements — would show the world that this process is serious about articulating shared rules of the game for digital trade. Softer outcomes in Nur-Sultan, such as a general stocktaking or a roadmap, would be a missed opportunity. See: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/spra_e/spra300_e.htm