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E-commerce negotiators continue to seek “landing zones” on text proposals

“Let’s keep the momentum up”, stressed the co-conveners of the e-commerce negotiations — Japan, Australia and Singapore — at their latest meeting with WTO members participating in the negotiations from 19 to 22 June 2023. They urged negotiators to consider carefully how the initiative can achieve the objective of securing substantial results by the end of the year, using the remaining four rounds of negotiations to find common ground on various issues.

Updates from small group discussions

Ambassador Hung Seng Tan of Singapore, co-convenor of the initiative and chair of the 2023 plenary meetings, paid tribute to the work and leadership of the facilitators of the small group discussions, which helped the negotiations get closer to convergence on several issues.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki of Japan said: “We fully recognize there is a wide range of interests and concerns among members on these issues. However, I believe one of the virtues of the WTO is a broader membership. I would always encourage our members to endeavour to obtain a sense of commonalities that accommodates the different circumstances of the members.”

The facilitators also shared updates on progress in their work to find landing zones on text proposals in areas such as cryptography, source code, privacy, “single windows”, telecommunications, and data flows and data localisation. Dedicated sessions also took place on various topics, including on how general and security exceptions can be considered in a future agreement, on development and implementation issues as well as on digital inclusion.

An information session held by the International Chamber of Commerce shed light on the importance of digital trade to industries and its implications for policymakers, including on legal reform, digital standards development and corporate commitments to a digital-first future. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development presented the findings of a business questionnaire on data localization measures, and on implications for the negotiations.

In his closing remarks, Ambassador George Mina of Australia underlined the importance of engaging with external stakeholders through the information sessions. He said that these sessions “highlighted what this initiative means to a wider audience outside of our rooms. It’s been good to hear how important what we’re doing is today.”

The next cluster meeting will be held on 26-28 July.

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