> Non-agricultural market access (NAMA)
property: geographical indications and biodiversity
> Trade and environment
> Trade facilitation
> Special and differential treatment
> Dispute settlement
> Jargon buster
> Country groupings
note on intellectual property: non-violation complaints
The work programme
Broadly speaking, electronic commerce is the advertising, sale and
distribution of products or services electronically.
The WTO work programme was launched in 1998 and reinforced at the Doha
Ministerial Conference in 2001. The General Council has decided that
the task should cover reviewing all issues related to trade arising
from global electronic commerce, including the economic, financial and
development needs of developing countries.
Related issues have been examined by the Services, Goods and
Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Councils and the Trade and Development
However, activity slowed in recent years. From the 2005 Hong Kong
Ministerial Conference, when ministers last raised the issue, until
the run-up to the Geneva Ministerial Conference in 2009, no
substantive discussions took place.
Then, in a series of meetings in October and November 2009, members
discussed the content of a draft decision to be sent to ministers.
Deputy Director-General Harsha Singh chaired the discussions on behalf
of the General Council chairperson.
Some members expressed concern over the lack of work under the work
programme. They suggested ways to reinvigorate the work, including a
detailed schedule for the next two years. Many developing countries
stressed that electronic commerce is important for their economies.
They agreed on a text, which ministers are expected to adopt. It
includes six-monthly reviews, and a report to the General Council on
progress under the work programme, to be submitted before the
Ministerial Conference of 2011.
The draft decision
This is the decision that ministers are expected to adopt, as
forwarded to them by the General Council.
“We take note of the reports from the General Council and subsidiary
bodies on the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and express our
concern that the examination of issues under the Work Programme is not
yet complete. We decide to intensively reinvigorate that work, based
on the Work Programme and guidelines given in the General Council
Decision of 25 September 1998.
“We instruct the General Council to hold periodic reviews of the
progress on the Work Programme in its sessions of July 2010, December
2010 and July 2011. The reports of these reviews, including any
recommendations for action, would be taken into consideration during
our next session, which we have decided to hold in 2011, for decisions
under this item.
“The Work Programme shall include development-related issues, basic
WTO principles including among others non-discrimination,
predictability and transparency, and discussions on the trade
treatment, inter alia, of electronically delivered software. We agree
to maintain the current institutional arrangements for the Work
“We decide that Members will maintain their current practice of not
imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until our next
session, which we have decided to hold in 2011.”
More on electronic commerce
More information can be found here