Mike Moore's speeches
Renato Ruggiero's speeches,
Electronic commerce - the production, advertising, sale and distribution of products via
telecommunication networks - can be divided into three broad categories for the purpose of
policy discussion: i) the searching stage where producers and consumers, or buyers and
sellers, first interact; ii) the ordering and payment stage once a transaction has been
agreed upon; and iii) the delivery stage. Much of the discussion in the study
relates to products that can be delivered electronically through the Internet (stage iii)
transactions), as this is where the most significant policy questions arise.
The study was written
as a means of providing background information for the 132 WTO Members who are now engaged
in the process of developing policy responses to this new form of commerce, which is
growing at a staggering rate. In 1991, there were less than 5 million Internet
users. By the turn of the century, there are likely to be more than 300 million
users. And the value of electronic commerce is predicted to reach US$300 billion by
emphasizes the extraordinary expansion of opportunities that electronic commerce offers,
including for developing countries. But it notes that much remains to be done by way
of improving access to the necessary infrastructure and user skills if these opportunities
are to be realized.
WTO members have begun to explore how the World Trade Organization should deal with the
question of electronic commerce. Given the unique nature of this emerging mode of
delivering products (goods and services), the authors say that many questions remain to be
answered. Products which are bought and paid for over the Internet but are
delivered physically would be subject to existing WTO rules on trade in goods. But
the situation is more complicated for products that are delivered as digitalized
information over the Internet, as a variety of issues arise relating to the appropriate
policy regime. The authors say that both the supply of Internet access services and many
of the products delivered over the Internet fall within the ambit of the General Agreement
on Trade in Services, but they also acknowledge the need for clarification of how far
particular activities are covered by the market access commitments of Members.
Among the policy issues identified in the study are the legal and regulatory framework for
Internet transactions, security and privacy questions, taxation, access to the Internet,
market access for suppliers over the Internet, trade facilitation, public procurement,
intellectual property questions, and regulation of content. The study attempts to lay
out the issues without pre-judging which of them should be taken up in the WTO, nor how
they should be dealt with substantively.
Note to Editors
Copies of the
study, Electronic Commerce and the Role of the WTO, are available in English,
French and Spanish (price Sfr 30.-) from WTO Publications, 154 Rue de Lausanne, CH-1211
Geneva 21, tel: (41.22) 739.5208/5308, fax: (41.22) 739.5792.