Trade agreement on e-commerce essential

  • 9 December 2020
World Trade Organization negotiations on the trade-related aspects of e-commerce

In a memo to World Trade Organization Members, ICC has called on negotiators to accelerate progress and conclude a high standard agreement by the next WTO Ministerial Conference.

There are now 86 World Trade Organization (WTO) Members negotiating the JSI, representing well over 90% of world trade. Citing the indispensable role of the digital economy during COVID-19, the memo says:

“As communities have socially distanced to flatten the curve, contactless payments have enabled safe, COVID-free transactions; brick-and-mortar retailers have rapidly moved to sell their wares online, powered by a vibrant ecosystem of software as a service providers; citizens have used social media to maintain connection with friends and loved ones across the globe; and e-commerce marketplaces have provided consumers with safety, choice and convenience.”

The memo – A High Standard Outcome to Power the Post-COVID Recovery – states that the digital economy will have an even more critical role to play in ensuring a rapid post-pandemic recovery, and highlights five key areas in which global business prioritises actions by negotiators:

  1. Market access and connectivity, including common rules to ensure open, non-discriminatory access to digital and digitally-enabled markets that support competition.
  2. A permanent prohibition of customs duties on electronic transmissions to ensure that duties do not impede the flow of data, and disciplines on the localisation of data.
  3. New disciplines, building on the Trade Facilitation Agreement, to enable simplified processing of low value shipments, and a provision mandating the adoption and implementation of the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records to enable paperless trade at scale.
  4. Commitments on cross-border consumer protection, including a commitment on a data protection framework that embodies minimum best practice standards.
  5. Capacity building programmes to expand connectivity, bridge digital divides and assist micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) looking to grow through e-commerce.

ICC Secretary-General John W.H. Denton AO said:

“Negotiators have made good progress on some of the less controversial issues. It’s now time to deliver an agreement that will power a post-COVID recovery and ensure the continued success of the millions of businesses that have come to rely on the digital economy.”

Read the memo: A High Standard Outcome to Power the Post-COVID Recovery

For further reading on global business input into the WTO negotiations, read ICC’s issues papers on the JSI:

Issues Brief No. 1: Taxation of physical goods in the context of e-commerce: avoiding non-tariff barriers through simple and consistent design

Issues Brief No. 2: The business case for a permanent prohibition of customs duties on electronic transmissions

Issues Brief No. 3: Facilitating trade through digitalisation

Issues Brief No. 4: Electronic payment services and e-commerce

For more information contact:
Raoul Renard
Government Affairs Manager, ICC