WTO members discuss proposals on work programme on e-commerce

WTO members discuss proposals on work programme on e-commerce

In their last dedicated discussion of the year on the Work Programme on E-commerce on 8 December, WTO members discussed text proposals for a ministerial decision to be considered at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024. The proposals address progress under the Work Programme, the moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions and the development dimension of e-commerce.

The first proposal, coordinated by Switzerland and Canada, is supported by 21 members (WT/GC/W/909). It seeks to capture the progress accomplished under the Work Programme since MC12 and proposes the continuation of work under the Programme. It also calls for an extension of the e-commerce moratorium until MC14.

The second proposal, by South Africa (WT/GC/W/911), proposes practical steps to be pursued under the Work Programme, such as the establishment of a fund that could provide developing economies, including least developed members, with targeted support to address the digital divide. The proposal further calls for an end to the moratorium on e-commerce and the reinvigoration of the Work Programme with a focus on development issues.

A third proposal, put forward by Samoa on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group WT/GC/W/916, takes note of the efforts to reinvigorate the 1998 Work Programme. It instructs members to further increase engagement under the Programme with a continued focus on the development dimension. It also proposes to extend the moratorium until MC14 and to hold further discussions on the scope, definition and impact of the moratorium.

In her concluding remarks, Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, the facilitator of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce,  noted some commonality in members’ views on these proposals, particularly the acknowledgement of the reinvigoration of the Work Programme and the need to continue this work with the development dimension at its centre. The facilitator also noted that differences remain on the future of the moratorium, including the need for more discussions on its definition, scope and impact.

Looking ahead, she intends to hold consultations in mid-January ahead of the next dedicated discussion on 25 January 2024.

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