WTO Ministerial ends without a final declaration and with statement on e-commerce

The 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which took place from 7 to 14 December, in Buenos Aires, did not manage to produce a final Ministerial Declaration. Consensus could not be achieved on relevant issues on the table, such as public food stockholding or harmful fisheries subsidies. The dividing lines between developed and developing countries became clear over the disagreement on whether to include the development aspects of the Doha Agenda on the final statement. With regards to e-commerce, member states could not agree on any change to the existing e-commerce mandate, approved in 1998. Discussions on the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions also got stalled, and a renewal of the moratorium was only approved on the last minute. In spite of that, 70 countries joined together and issued a statement on e-commerce, agreeing to ‘initiate exploratory work toward future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce’. Among the supporters of the statement were Australia, Singapore, Japan, the European Union and the United States. WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo expressed disappointment over the way the negotiations progressed and called for soul-searching among the member countries.