E-commerce Rules for Policymakers

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The context: E-commerce provisions are becoming core features to Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). In addition, the dedicated Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs), Digital Partnerships (DPs) and regional E-commerce agreements (such as the ASEAN e-commerce agreement) have emerged. Moreover, 90 WTO Members – participants of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-commerce at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are shaping the E-commerce rules on over 30 issues, making of this forum the largest digital trade rules laboratory. Adoption of a partial WTO JSI [plurilateral] E-commerce agreement, which is expected to contain the rules on about a dozen of digital trade issues, might be expected by the MC13 in 2024, or even earlier. After that the work on aligning positions in more contentious areas will continue.

All these rules and the discussions leading to their elaboration are inspired by and feed into the formulation of national and regional strategies and legal texts on E-commerce. It is therefore critical for FIC negotiators to become familiar with such provisions and be ready to negotiate their possible inclusion in future FTAs, and facilitate transposition of relevant disciplines in national legislation. The FIC WTO Members will also be required to determine the type of engagement vis-à-vis the WTO E-commerce JSI, the regular work of the WTO on E-commerce, as well as consider shaping or joining regional or megaregional E-commerce deals.

Supporting the above goals, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS)’s E-commerce Rules Course for Policymakers implements Measure 4.2.1 of Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, which seeks to develop FIC negotiators’ skills on E-commerce laws and regulations to support negotiation and implementation of future digital trade agreements and E-commerce provisions in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Overview of the Course: The 2023 PIFS E-commerce Rules Course for the Policymakers has been developed in collaboration with a group of digital trade professionals from the international organizations active in the area (such as UNCITRAL, UNCTAD, UNESCAP, WTO, the Commonwealth) and the other development partners (Australia (DFAT),Japan (MOFA), and Singapore (MTI)).