The United States has promoted the establishment of binding commitments on digital trade within the World Trade Organization (WTO), an issue that will be discussed at the next ministerial conference.
The Internet and other digital technologies play a crucial role in strengthening and supporting businesses in all sectors of the United States economy.
In 2020, the United States Trade Representation (USTR) promoted America’s digital business interests in a variety of forums and worked to combat a rising tide of barriers to digital trade around the world.
The USTR highlighted some of those barriers in a fact sheet on digital trade, which was published at the same time as the annual national trade estimate report in March 2020.
At the WTO, the United States has actively participated in the joint declaration of the Electronic Commerce Initiative (or “digital commerce”).
In January 2019, the United States and 75 other WTO Members issued a second Joint Statement on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum confirming their intention to initiate negotiations and committing to seek a high-level outcome with the participation of as many Members as possible.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, the United States and other participating governments entered into negotiations based on Members’ proposals.
At the end of 2020, this work resulted in the development of a consolidated text.
Previously, in December 2019, the United States joined a consensus in the WTO General Council to continue the old Work Program on Electronic Commerce and maintain a moratorium on tariffs on electronic transmissions.
This decision will remain in effect until the Twelfth Ministerial Conference, scheduled for the end of 2021.
According to the USTR, the United States continued to work to develop support to make this moratorium permanent and binding under the WTO.
The USTR raised digital trade issues in many bilateral engagements throughout 2020, including in consultations with free trade agreement partners and formal Trade and Investment Framework Agreement meetings.
The USTR also seized the opportunity, both at the WTO and through broad bilateral engagement, to address numerous trade-restrictive aspects of the proposed implementing decrees of cybersecurity laws in Vietnam and China and lobbied Indonesia for amendments. to a highly restrictive data localization law.
Additionally, the USTR continued to advocate for America’s digital business interests in international forums such as the G20 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.