UNCTAD paper cautions digital rules on e-commerce could negatively impact developing countries

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a research paper on the progress of the negotiations between 86 countries on digital rules under the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on e-commerce. The paper, which is titled ‘Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce (JSI): Economic and Fiscal Implications for the South,’ investigates major digital rules that aim at free flow of cross-border data, mandatory legal frameworks for electronic transactions, restrictions on data localisation, no customs duties on electronic transmissions, no source code disclosure, mandatory membership of information technology agreement (ITA) and ITA Expansion, and mandatory commitments of national treatment and market access. According to the paper, many of these rules accrued high costs of compliance and could hence negatively influence the trade competitiveness of developing countries in the digital economy. Therefore, for developing countries to build their digital infrastructure and digital economies, they ‘need at least the same policy and regulatory space’ that developed countries had at the outset of their digital development trajectory.