The Declaration directed the WTO General Council to establish a
to examine all trade-related issues arising from electronic commerce, and to
present a progress report to the WTO’s Third Ministerial Conference.
The 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 thoughts.
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
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.