Co-convenors welcome good progress in e-commerce talks, launch capacity-building framework

Ministers of Australia, Japan and Singapore — co-convenors of WTO e-commerce negotiations — have welcomed the good results achieved by the participants in the initiative. In a statement issued on 13 June during the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, they underlined the importance of developing global rules on e-commerce and, together with Switzerland, launched the E-commerce Capacity Building Framework to strengthen digital inclusion and to help developing and least developed countries harness the opportunities of digital trade.

The ministers emphasised participants’ commitment to agreeing on a global set of digital trade rules as rapidly as possible and to ensuring these rules help developing and least developed countries unlock the opportunities of the digital economy.

In their statement, ministers acknowledged the barriers faced by developing and least developed countries seeking to benefit from the digital economy. The E-commerce Capacity Building Framework will help these countries better address those barriers and enjoy the benefits of digital trade, they said.

The Framework will offer a wide range of technical assistance, training and capacity building to support countries’ participation in the e-commerce negotiations.  This includes through a new Digital Advisory and Trade Assistance (DATA) Fund, to which Australia and Switzerland are contributing funding, as well as digital capacity-building support provided by Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and by Singapore through the Singapore-WTO Third Country Training Programme (TCTP).

The co-convenors emphasised that inclusion remains an important principle in the negotiations, as reflected in the inclusive and transparent work of the group, which is open to all members.

The co-convenors noted calls from 105 trade associations from around the worldfor the continuation of the multilateral moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions. It is crucial that the initiative makes this practice permanent among participants in the negotiations, they said.

The ministers said they are committed to a timely conclusion of the negotiations and the co-convenors will issue a revised Consolidated Negotiating Text by the end of 2022.

There are currently 86 WTO members participating in the negotiations on e-commerce, accounting for over 90 per cent of global trade.

The full statement is available here.

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