WTO e-commerce negotiations reach agreement on two new issues

Participants in the World Trade Organization’s Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on electronic commerce have reached agreement on the topics of consumer protection and open government data. Ambassador George Mina of Australia, one of the co-conveners of the initiative, said that a high-quality text was achieved in both cases, reflecting the perspectives of a diverse range of developed and developing countries. According to news published by the WTO, the provisions on online consumer protection require members to adopt or maintain measures that proscribe misleading, fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities that cause harm, or potential harm, to consumers engaged in electronic commerce. Members are required to seek the adoption of measures to ensure suppliers deal fairly and honestly with consumers, and provide complete and accurate information on goods and services. Countries should also promote consumer redress mechanisms. The article on open government data encourages members to expand the coverage of government data made available for public access and use, and to try to ensure that the available data meets particular characteristics. The negotiations have previously produced clean articles on spam, electronic signatures and authentication, and e-contracts. Participants of the JSI also discussed digital trade and development, with particular attention to recently tabled proposals aimed at helping developing and least-developed countries implement rules on e-commerce and bridge the digital divide.