Facilitators of small group discussions reported on the work done in the past weeks to find common ground on proposals in the areas of spam, source code, open government data, trade facilitation in goods, market access, electronic signatures and authentication, online consumer protection, open internet access, and customs duties.
Ambassador George Mina of Australia said that the consolidated text is a good product and reflects not only how much the group has achieved thus far but also how much further they have to go. The co-conveners set several milestones for the work in 2021 and said that they will continue using small groups to build progress from the bottom up.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Hung Seng Tan of Singapore reflected on three “buckets of issues” that warrant more attention next year. He reiterated that all issues under small group discussions need to continue to make progress at an accelerated pace. He noted that some of the remaining issues in these texts are technical in nature and require language that can accommodate the peculiarity of different regimes. In his view, these issues can be resolved and accommodated given more time and flexibility.
Ambassador Tan said that members need to address more complex issues on openness and e-commerce including data-related provisions and members should engage on these issues actively next year.
Lastly, he stressed the need for members to engage on cross-cutting issues, scope and general exceptions.
Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki of Japan stressed the need to advance the process. He noted that ministerial engagement might be helpful to maintain ambition and momentum in the run up to the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). He stressed that the co-conveners will continue their efforts to listen to all members, particularly developing-country members, on the challenges faced in developing an enabling environment for e-commerce.
On 14 December, the co-conveners issued an update on the negotiations. More information is available here.