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Electronic commerce: the great pending of the WTO

Electronic commerce is one of the great pending in the multilateral negotiations, in which progress has been made, said Roberto Azevêdo, director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“It was simply not acceptable for the WTO to be in the 21st century, decades in a deep digital revolution, without truly consistent discussions on electronic commerce,” Azevêdo said as part of his farewell statements to the General Council this Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Therefore, we started testing other approaches available in the WTO toolkit,” he added.

Dozens of WTO members have made progress in regulating electronic commerce, but it is not yet defined whether it will be presented as an agreement for the entire membership or will be limited to a certain number of members of that body.

For now, WTO members agreed in mid-December 2019 to extend the two existing moratoriums on customs duties on electronic transmissions and “non-infringement” claims under the Aspects Agreement of Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Since 1998, WTO members have regularly extended the moratorium at each ministerial conference and have continued to address issues related to electronic commerce in the Council for Trade in Goods, the Council for Trade in Services, the Council for TRIPS and the Committee of Trade and Development, as part of the Work Program on Electronic Commerce.

Electronic commerce

Azevêdo commented that member groups began to explore innovative ways to advance topics of interest.

“They know them all: electronic commerce; investment facilitation for development; micro, small and medium enterprises; national regulation of services; and trade and the economic empowerment of women,” he told the General Council.

“This second avenue of work received a major boost at the Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires in 2017. Since then, these initiatives have become an important part of the work here in Geneva, with an increasing number of participants from the developed and developing worlds. development, and a spirit of welcome, transparency and inclusion of the proponents”, he said.

 

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