Declaration directed the WTO General Council to establish a
comprehensive work programme to examine all
trade-related issues arising from electronic commerce, and to present a
progress report to the WTO’s Third Ministerial Conference.
1998 declaration also included a so-called moratorium stating that
“members will continue their current practice of not imposing customs
duties on electronic transmission”.
work programme was adopted by the WTO General Council on
25 September 1998. It continued after the Third Ministerial Conference
in Seattle, November 1999.
The Doha decision
At the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha in 2001, ministers agreed
to continue the work programme as well as to extend the moratorium on
customs duties. They instructed the General Council, in
paragraph 34 of the Doha Declaration, to report on further
progress to the Fifth Ministerial in Cancún, in 2003.
Under the work programme, issues related to electronic commerce have
been examined by the Council for Trade in Services, the Council for
Trade in Goods, the Council for TRIPS and the Committee on Trade and
Development. During the course of the work programme a number of
background notes on the issues have been produced by the WTO Secretariat
and many member governments have submitted documents outlining their own
Since then …
After the Doha Ministerial Declaration, the General Council agreed to
hold “dedicated” discussions on cross-cutting issues, i.e. issues whose
potential relevance may “cut across” different agreements of the
multilateral system. So far, there have been five discussions dedicated
to electronic commerce, held under General Council’s auspices.
The issues discussed included: classification of the content of certain
electronic transmissions; development-related issues; fiscal
implications of e-commerce; relationship (and possible substitution
effects) between e-commerce and traditional forms of commerce;
imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions; competition;
jurisdiction and applicable law/other legal issues.
Participants in the dedicated discussions hold the view that the
examination of these cross-cutting issues is unfinished, and that
further work to clarify these issues is needed.