Progress on WTO e-commerce negotiations

Participants in the World Trade Organization’s Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on electronic commerce have taken further steps towards reaching a future e-commerce agreement. Ambassadors from Australia, Japan and Singapore, the co-convenors of the e-commerce negotiations, mentioned that JSI members had made “excellent progress”, having now cleaned articles on spam, electronic signatures and authentication, and e-contracts, and virtually cleaned articles on open government data and online consumer protection. Advancements on a text on transparency have been made, but the text has now been “parked”, subject to the final scope and legal structure of the outcome. The co-conveners also recognized that intensified work is needed on complex issues, such as data flows, localization, source code, and customs duties on electronic transmissions. In addition, cybersecurity and electronic availability of trade-related information are topics that will require further discussion in the second half of 2021. According to the facilitators, negotiations are on course to achieve further substantial progress by the time of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), which will take place in Geneva on 30 November-3 December.