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Goods and services | Brussels, 3 May 2019

EU releases proposal on new WTO rules for electronic commerce

The EU has today made public its text proposal on future rules and obligations on e-commerce as part of WTO negotiations on e-commerce endorsed by Ministers in the margins of the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2019. The release of the text proposal is part of the EU’s commitment to transparency and inclusiveness in the development of its trade policy.

The increasing digitalization of the economy and the rapid increase in e-commerce are having a tremendous impact on businesses and consumers across the world, both in developed and developing countries. Despite this fast increase of digital trade, there are currently no multilateral rules regulating this type of trade.

Businesses and consumers instead have to rely on a patchwork of rules agreed by some countries in their bilateral or regional trade agreements. The EU considers that global trade policy responses can most effectively address the global opportunities and challenges brought by digital trade.

The EU is therefore fully committed to advancing the WTO negotiations on e-commerce, which have just started. It will seek to negotiate a commercially meaningful set of rules on e-commerce with as many WTO Members as possible.

To this end, the EU tabled initial negotiating proposals for a broad set of rules and commitments that would for instance:

  • Guarantee the validity of e-contracts and e-signatures
  • Strengthen consumer consumers' trust in the on-line environment
  • Adopt measures to effectively combat spam
  • Tackle barriers that prevent cross-border sales today
  • Address forced data localisation requirements, while ensuring protection of personal data
  • Prohibit mandatory source code disclosure requirements
  • Permanently ban customs duties on electronic transmissions
  • Adhere to the principle of open internet access
  • Upgrade existing WTO disciplines on telecommunication services to ensure that they are fit to support today’s vibrant internet ecosystem that is the main enabler of e-commerce
  • Improve market access commitments in telecommunication and computer related services.

The EU text proposal will be discussed along with proposals from other participating WTO Members, on 13- 15 May in Geneva.

The EU supports an open and transparent negotiating process that will take into account the specific opportunities and challenges that Members may face in this very broad area of trade and hopes that more WTO members will join these negotiations in due course.

The EU proposal

76 WTO countries launch talks on e-commerce, Press release, January 2019.