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Mr Jeremy Malcolm, Senior Global Policy Analyst at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), opened the session by providing some initial remarks on the Dynamic Coalition on Trade and the Internet’s history and objectives. He mentioned that the reason behind the creation of the Coalition is the participation of all stakeholders in an open fashion. There was a civil society group before the Coalition, but it did not include all actors from different sectors. The Coalition, on the contrary, is open to anyone who wants to join. The speaker showed some figures and explained that there are 42 members and the majority comes from civil society. The road ahead for 2018 incorporates the objective of recruiting more members, specially government representatives. This was the first physical meeting of the Coalition.
Ms Jyoti Panday, Asia Policy Fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), commented on the background paper prepared by the Coalition as an informational resource. She highlighted that it is not a normative document and it does not represent the opinions of all members. The document is rather a resource for capacity building and a path for the future. The speakers fleshed out the content of the document and mentioned its four main parts: (1) an intellectual property and trade framework overview, (2) a summary and analysis of trade negotiations that have included digital issues, (3) a discussion on main topics related to digital trade and Internet governance, and finally (4) a chapter on transparency and openness in trade negotiations. The final recommendations point at introducing transparency and opening up digital trade negotiation processes by governments for the participation by affected stakeholders and NGOs.
Malcolm then reflected on the draft resolution about transparency and inclusiveness in trade negotiations which has two main principles: transparency and consultation. Transparency refers to the responsibility of governments to inform their citizens of how they regulate these issues and receive public comments on these regulations. Consultation is related to the government's duty to ensure that representatives of all interested parties, including organisations and experts representing Internet users and consumers, have the opportunity for meaningful involvement. After this brief explanation, Malcom opened the floor for questions and comments on the draft resolution. One of the members of the audience suggested to change a phrase in the preamble, from this version:
‘International trade agreements that support the free and open Internet and the interoperability of Internet information services can assist member countries to harness the potential of the Internet to promote social and economic development for all.’
‘If international trade agreements support a free and open Internet, which is just fair and development oriented and furthers the interoperability of Internet information services, that could assist member countries to harness the potential of the Internet to promote social and economic development for all.’
The change was accepted by the majority of the members participating in the meeting and the resolution was adopted by a rough consensus with the proposed change.
By Tamar Colodenco