E-commerce discussions make progress at MC12

The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) took place from 12 to 17 June, in Geneva. The Conference had already been postponed twice because of COVID-19-related restrictions.

During MC12, the co-conveners of the Joint Initiative issued a statement in which they welcomed “the good results achieved in the negotiations to date and remain committed to agreeing on a global set of digital trade rules as rapidly as possible.” They committed to issuing a revised Consolidated Negotiating Text by the end of 2022 and to revise the JSI’s working modalities to “seek expedited progress in the negotiations, including on the key issues of data flows and data localisation”.

The co-conveners also recognised barriers faced by least developed and developing countries to “utilise e-commerce for their benefit”. In response to these challenges, they launched the E-Commerce Capacity Building Framework. The Framework is expected to “bring together a wide range of technical assistance and capacity building efforts to support countries participating in the E-Commerce JSI” in order to help them harness the opportunity of digital trade. The co-conveners also expressed the support from JSI participants to the continuation of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.

During MC12, a Ministerial Decision concerning the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce was approved. The decision renews the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions and instructs and General Council to hold periodic reviews on the moratorium, including on its scope, definition and impact.  Member countries also agreed to reinvigorate the work under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, particularly in line with its development dimension.