ICC Document & publication

WTO Plurilateral Negotiations on Trade-Related Aspects of Electronic Commerce – ICC Baseline Position

Recent years have witnessed remarkable developments in the digital economy, creating unprecedented opportunities for cross-border trade.

The digital environment is enabling micro, small and medium-sized businesses (“MSMEs”) to access global markets unlike ever before. Studies show that MSMEs that use on-line platforms are around five times more likely to export than those in the traditional economy using traditional channels. Empirical research also finds that companies connected to the global economy are more productive and contribute to the development of global trade and more prosperous communities. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing economies are already at the forefront of this emerging trend.

But digital-led changes to the composition, nature and speed of global trade are raising increasing policy frictions. Today’s trade rules—which largely reflect 20th Century patterns of trade—are not always well-suited to supporting the growth of MSME e-commerce, and in key areas have not kept up with the growth of the digital economy. But digital-led changes to the composition, nature and speed of global trade are raising increasing policy frictions. Today’s trade rules—which largely reflect 20th Century patterns of trade—are not always well-suited to supporting the growth of MSME e-commerce, and in key areas have not kept up with the growth of the digital economy.

What’s more, fragmented national rules on data governance, privacy, consumer protection and a lack in availability of online information can act as major impediments to trade—creating new market barriers and pushing up costs for MSMEs looking to enter global markets. One precondition for the success and viability of e-commerce is the ability for information to flow freely and efficiently across borders—without being limited by technical barriers or anti-competitive bottlenecks, while abiding by privacy and security rules.

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