Facilitator of e-commerce work programme seeks members’ views on way forward
In the first of a series of meetings to be held in the lead up to the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, the facilitator of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, reported at a dedicated session on 18 October on her consultations with WTO members on the possible outcome at MC13 and heard members’ views on how to proceed in the remaining months, including on the moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on e-commerce.
In her consultations, she sought members’ views on whether any of the issues so far discussed to reinvigorate the Work Programme can be the subject of recommendations for ministers at MC13. She also invited members to reflect on how to make the Work Programme more effective in response to today’s challenges, including development.
Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady reported that members welcomed the work done and progress achieved in this year’s dedicated discussions and noted the need to acknowledge this in a draft Ministerial Decision. She also relayed that many delegations stressed that reinvigoration of the Work Programme as mandated at MC12 had been achieved. In their view, she added, the dedicated discussions should continue to explore issues, “deep diving” into some of the topics identified in members’ discussions.
Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady reported that the development dimension was noted as a key aspect of members’ work moving forward. She remarked that members expressed support for enhancing technical assistance and capacity building, adding that members recognize the WTO’s convening power to bring together not only relevant international organizations but also other stakeholders, such as the private sector. She noted that members recognize the importance of the WTO as a forum for structured discussions on e-commerce.
Through her consultations, Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady acknowledged that more work needs to be done on the issue of the moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce. She suggested to members to address the topic in the upcoming dedicated discussion in November, where the WTO Secretariat will present the findings of a collaborative study conducted with the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Bank. In the following months, members will focus on discussing what potential decision could be put forward to ministers at MC13.
Djibouti, on behalf of the Least-Developed Countries (LDC) Group, announced at the meeting that the Group will update their proposal (WT/GC/W/787) to highlight some positive developments in the area of e-commerce in addition to the gaps that remain for LDCs. The facilitator also drew attention to a recently circulated submission by India on promoting competition in e-commerce (WT/GC/W/902). South Africa said that it would also like to support that proposal. The African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP Group) declared that they would be submitting a proposal on their views on the way forward in the Work Programme and the moratorium.