December 14, 2021
Japan, Australia, and Singapore are the co-conveners of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-commerce. On December 14(Tue.), the three countries' ministers released a ministerial statement that confirmed the substantial progress made thus far and outlined the future timeframe.
The WTO JSI on E-Commerce began in January 2019, and is co-convened by Japan, Australia, and Singapore. The three co-convening ministers have just released a joint statement confirming the substantial progress made thus far and outlining the future timeframe.
The key points in the statement are as follows:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has ... heightened the need for global rules governing digital trade. ... This initiative will update the WTO rulebook in an area of critical importance to the global economy.
- The digital economy offers enormous opportunities for developing Members and least-developed country (LDC) Members[.] ... WTO rules and commitments on digital trade can help unlock these opportunities.
- [W]e will continue to drive negotiations towards a high standard and commercially meaningful outcome building on existing WTO agreements and frameworks. We will ... encourage the participation of as many WTO Members as possible in the negotiations[.]
- We welcome the substantial progress made to date[.] We have achieved good convergence in negotiating groups on eight articles – online consumer protection; electronic signatures and authentication; unsolicited commercial electronic messages; open government data; electronic contracts; transparency; paperless trading; and open internet access. [This] will deliver important benefits including boosting consumer confidence and supporting businesses trading online.
- In addition, we have seen the consolidation of text proposals in other areas, including on ... cross-border data flows, data localisation, [and] source code[.] We will intensify negotiations in these areas from early 2022. We note that provisions that enable and promote the flow of data are key to high standard and commercially meaningful outcome[s].
- [We] support the continuation of the multilateral e-commerce moratorium[.] [It is] crucial that the initiative makes permanent among participants the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.
- We recognise the importance of supporting the engagement of developing Members and LDC Members[.]
- [T]o secure convergence on the majority of issues by the end of 2022 ... [w]e will identify opportunities throughout 2022 for Ministers to provide guidance on key issues in the negotiations.
- WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce: Statement by Ministers of Australia, Japan and Singapore
- WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce Statement by Ministers of Australia, Japan and Singapore
Division in Charge
Multilateral Trade System Department, Trade Policy Bureau