KEI reaction to 11th WTO Ministerial Conference – Joint Statement on E-Commerce

On December 13, 2017, a joint statement on e-commerce was endorsed by Ministers representing 70 WTO members at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina (see below).

KEI’s statement on the WTO e-commerce agenda is as follows:

“There is no question about the importance of e-commerce and digital trade. Less clear is why a WTO role is needed, given the nature of the institution, the relative lack of expertise, and its system of norms that are hard to make and harder to modify. There are concerns that the WTO may be asked to consider rules that would override legitimate safeguards of privacy and consumer protection, undermine the transparency of critical software code, and make it more difficult to control anti-competitive practices, while doing nothing to protect important freedoms of expression. For these reasons, it is important for those advocating for WTO engagement in e-commerce to be more transparent about their objectives and the rationale for asking the WTO to regulate trade in this area. The decision by the Secretariat to present itself as a champion of big e-commerce businesses during the ministerial and to downplay the risks and challenges of e-commerce and digital trade was unfortunate and concerning. We join others in monitoring future developments at the WTO on these topics.” James Love, Director, KEI

Below is the joint statement from the WTO Ministerial.


Ministers representing the following Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO): Albania; Argentina; Australia; Bahrain; Brazil; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; European Union; Guatemala; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Israel; Japan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Lao PDR; Liechtenstein; the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Malaysia; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Montenegro; Myanmar; New Zealand; Nigeria; Norway; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Qatar; Russian Federation; Singapore; Switzerland; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Turkey; Ukraine; United States; and Uruguay; reaffirm the importance of global electronic commerce and the opportunities it creates for inclusive trade and development.

We share the goal of advancing electronic commerce work in the WTO in order to better harness these opportunities.

We recognize the particular opportunities and challenges faced by developing countries, especially LDCs, as well as by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, in relation to electronic commerce.

We also recognize the important role of the WTO in promoting open, transparent, non-discriminatory and predictable regulatory environments in facilitating electronic commerce.

We, as a group, will initiate exploratory work together toward future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronics commerce. Participation will be open to all WTO Members and will be without prejudice to participants’ positions of future negotiations. A first meeting will be held in the first quarter of 2018.

Welcoming the contributions since the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, our work will build on WTO rules. Our initiative will be undertaken without prejudice to existing WTO agreements and mandates. We encourage all WTO Members to join us and to support and enhance the benefits of electronic commerce for businesses and consumers across the globe.