WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions – A primer for business

  • 18 November 2019

A WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions may not be renewed this December, leaving governments free to experiment with applying damaging tariffs to cross-border data flows.

Since 1998 World Trade Organization (WTO) Members have agreed not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions. While the term “electronic transmissions” is not defined, it is commonly held to encompass anything from software, emails, and text messages to digital music, movies and videogames. The moratorium is not set in stone: every two years governments agree to extend the moratorium at the biennial WTO Ministerial Conference.

Due to an aberration in the WTO Ministerial Conference scheduling, the moratorium is due to lapse on 31 December 2019—unless a decision is taken at a WTO General Council meeting in December to extend the moratorium until the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan in June 2020.

This primer explains what the moratorium is, why it matters and 3 practical measures you take to help.