December 15, 2020
On December 14, 2020, Japan, Australia and Singapore, co-conveners of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce, released a Co-conveners’ Update on the progress in the negotiations so far.
The JSI continued the negotiations in virtual meeting format since March 2020 due to COVID-19, and achieved the milestone of developing a consolidated negotiating text by the end of 2020. The JSI will accelerate the negotiations aiming to deliver substantial progress by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) scheduled to be held in 2021.
Key points of the released update are as follows:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. E-commerce will be critical to the global economic recovery. Rule-making in the JSI is an opportunity for the WTO to respond to this urgent need.
- The number of participants in the negotiations has grown to 86 WTO members, accounting for over 90% of global trade.
- Throughout 2020, there have been extensive and constructive discussions covering: enabling electronic commerce; openness and e-commerce; trust and e-commerce; cross-cutting issues; telecommunications; market access; and scope and general provisions, guided by the objective of achieving WTO-plus outcomes that deliver meaningful benefits for businesses and consumers, and the participants developed the consolidated text as a basis of the next stage of negotiations.
- Highlights include the good progress made in small groups on issues such as e-signatures and authentication, paperless trading, customs duties on electronic transmissions, open government data, open internet access, consumer protection, spam and source code, among others.
- Provisions that enable and promote the flow of data are key to a high standard and commercially meaningful outcome. Japan and Singapore hosted a session on information sharing of data flow-related rules in November 2020. Discussions on these issues will intensify from early 2021.
- The negotiations remain on track to deliver substantial progress by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference. The members will intensify work to find potential landing zones.
Japan issued the Osaka Declaration on Digital Economy, taking the opportunity of the G20 Osaka Summit Meeting in 2019, and declared the launch of “Osaka Track,” an approach to international rule-making for digital economy, in particular, data flows and e-commerce. One of the main efforts of Osaka Track is the rule-making on e-commerce in the WTO, and Japan, as a co-convener of the JSI, has been leading the negotiations, together with Australia and Singapore.
As digitalization of economy and society has become indispensable due to COVID-19, the incentive to further promote global cooperation on e-commerce has been stronger in a variety of countries. Toward MC12, Japan will accelerate negotiations to achieve a high standard and commercially meaningful outcome, with the participation of as many WTO members as possible.
- Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce: Co-conveners’ Update (original text in English) (PDF:91KB)