Group picture of participants at the E-commerce Course Builds Digital Capacity for Pacific Policymakers

Programmes Adviser, Noah Kouback at the E-Commerce Rules Course for Pacific Policymakers

Noah Kouback

  • Your Excellency Mr. David Yardley, Australia’s Chief Negotiator on the WTO Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-commerce and former Australian High Commissioner to Kiribati;
  • Wei Guo Tang, First Secretary (Economics) at the Permanent Mission of Singapore to the WTO
  • Dear Participants
  • Dear Alumni
  • Dear Guests
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure to open the second cycle of the virtual e-commerce rules course for Pacific policymakers.
A result of fruitful collaboration of digital trade experts from all over the globe, this ambitious course is a rare opportunity for the policymakers from the Forum Island Countries to make a deep dive into how the digital rules are made and what they mean for the future.
Feedback from the first cohort of the participants underscores the value of enhanced awareness in e-commerce regulation. Recognising that mastering this complex area requires ongoing efforts, we are committed to ensure this course is a regular item of our product offer. The goal is to establish an e-commerce Community of Practice that will support FIC interests, engage with partners, and contribute to the representation of our region’s needs.
As our region takes its initial steps in digital policymaking, we acknowledge the more advanced progress made by neighboring countries. Currently, only Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, PNG, and Kiribati have laws regulating electronic transactions, with even fewer having legislation on personal data protection and online consumer protection.
While the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy has been in place since 2021, national strategies are still in progress in only seven FICs, indicating both slow progress and room for growth.
International agreements involving FICs and featuring digital trade-related provisions are limited. Tuvalu made news about a year ago by joining the Framework Agreement on Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and Pacific, and we hope other Members will follow in its footsteps.
However, in the case of digital regulation, being slightly behind is also a chance – to learn from the experiences of others, to adopt the approaches verified by the time and application, to leapfrog to a new level. PNG and Kiribati have mastered this lesson well, as their brand new (2021) e-transactions acts reflect the most modern and relevant trends by affording the regulation to electronic transferrable records. Only 8 jurisdictions globally have achieved this remarkable result.
There are many more rules related to e-commerce to learn about, consider, and, if relevant, consciously implement. Many of those are discussed under the auspices of the WTO Work Programme on e-commerce by all the WTO Members and in the WTO Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on e-commerce by a subset of the 90 WTO Members. I am pleased to say that the representatives of the co-conveners of the WTO JSI on e-commerce – Australia, Japan, and Singapore, will be with us throughout the course, starting from today, to share their first-hand feedback on the rules put to negotiations, some of which are expected to be adopted already within the next months.
To sum it up, there is much to learn, and even more to do with the newly acquired knowledge. Dear participants, I welcome and commend your desire to explore the unknown and wish you and your trainers a productive and successful course.
I thank you.

Previously posted at :