Davos: 76 countries discuss new WTO e-commerce rules

At the Davos World Economic Forum, 76 WTO member countries got together to agree to talk about future WTO rules on e-commerce.

The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström released a statement explaining the background to this: “The last two decades have seen the exponential growth of domestic and cross-border electronic commerce. Despite this fast increase in electronic transactions, there are no specific multilateral rules in the WTO regulating this type of trade. Business and consumers instead have to rely on a patchwork of rules agreed by some countries in their bilateral or regional trade agreements.”

The plan is to create a global legal framework under which e-commerce retailers can trade in developed and developing countries, making it easier to export and import e-commerce goods all over the world. Amongst the issues the Davos countries will discuss are to:

– improve consumers’ trust in the on-line environment and combat spam
– tackle barriers that prevent cross-border sales
– guarantee validity of e-contracts and e-signatures
– permanently ban customs duties on electronic transmissions
– address forced data localisation requirements and forced disclosure of source code

Malmström said of the Davos discussions, “It is encouraging to see so many partners joining this important trade initiative. Electronic commerce is a reality in most corners of the world, so we owe it to our citizens and companies to provide a predictable, effective and safe online environment for trade. We look forward to working with all interested WTO members, flexibly and pragmatically, to create a truly comprehensive and ambitious set of rules.”