WTO: customs duties on electronic transmissions discussed

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) continued to discuss the ongoing work program on electronic commerce and the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.

The president of the General Council of the WTO, Dacio Castillo, from Honduras, pointed out that, after the good discussion that the members had on this issue on May 5 and 6, and seeing the willingness of the members to participate in this matter, communicate with delegations regarding the launch of “structured discussions” in the lead up to the Ministerial Summit so that members can better understand the scope, definition and impact of the moratorium.

The Ministerial Summit has already been scheduled to be held between November 30 and December 3, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland.


Since 1998, WTO members have periodically renewed the moratorium – a decision not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions – at each Ministerial Conference and have continued to address issues related to electronic commerce in the Goods Council, the Council of Services, the Council for TRIPS and the Committee on Trade and Development as part of the work program on electronic commerce.

In December 2019, WTO members renewed the moratorium until the next Ministerial Summit and decided to revitalize the Work Program and dedicate the first part of 2020 to a structured debate on the subject.


The Internet and mobile networks provide new, rapidly evolving and intensely competitive channels for the sale of all types of goods and services.

According to the company e-Bay, the sector competes in two-sided markets and both buyers and sellers must be attracted to use their platforms.

Consumers who buy or sell goods and services through the company have more and more alternatives and merchants have more channels to reach consumers.

Predictably, the competition will continue to intensify.

In addition, certain platform companies, such as Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, have a secure and dominant position in other industries or certain important markets, and offer other goods and services to consumers and merchants.

Competitors with other sources of income can also devote more resources to marketing and promotional campaigns, adopt more aggressive pricing policies, and devote more resources to developing websites, mobile platforms, and applications and systems.