The New Economy in East Asia and the Pacific

By Peter Drysdale | Go to book overview
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E-commerce: the work program of the World Trade Organization

Edsel T. Custodio


This chapter reports on the scope and progress of work on electronic commerce (e-commerce) arising under agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It also presents a broad review of the work done by other intergovernmental organisations and private sector groups in the area of e-commerce by way of positioning the WTO's role and future direction of work in the broad spectrum of e-commerce development. For the purpose of this discussion, I define e-commerce as the 'production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means'. 1

The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations was launched in Punta del Este in 1986 and finished eight years later, in 1994. E-commerce was in its infancy while negotiations were going on, but its subsequent development increased the urgency for a stronger WTO agenda on e-commerce. Since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the WTO has achieved a number of landmarks. In December 1994, the Agreement on Basic Telecommunications Services (Basic Telecom Agreement) was agreed to in Marrakesh. This agreement put competitive regulatory principles in place and opened markets to international competition. By 2003, it will apply to the provision of international services. In December 1996, in Singapore, ministers agreed to continue negotiations towards the elimination of tariffs and, subsequently, consultations on non-tariff barriers on all information technology (IT) products. In March 1998 in Geneva, the Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology of the WTO (the Information Technology Agreement or ITA) was signed after forty-six countries (representing 93 per cent of IT world trade) agreed on it. At the Geneva Ministerial Meeting in May 1998, the WTO brought out the Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce, calling for a WTO work program on e-commerce and a moratorium on customs duties on e-commerce transmission. This work is being carried forward into the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

The work program was designed to be comprehensive on 'all trade-related issues relating to global electronic commerce, taking into account the economic, financial, and development needs of developing countries' and


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