In his opening remarks, Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki (Japan), co-convenor of the initiative and chair of the plenary meetings this year, underlined that the co-convenors will be issuing a more streamlined negotiating text later in December reflecting articles for which work in small groups has concluded, articles that have gained significant support, and proposals that have not yet secured such support from the participants.
Ambassador Hung Seng Tan of Singapore, co-convenor of the initiative, and incoming chair for the 2023 plenary meetings, said: “As we approach the end of the year, I think it's timely for us to start thinking ahead and reflect on how we can accelerate the pace of negotiations next year with the aim of reaching substantial conclusions.”
He urged members to continue to exercise flexibility and re-examine proposals that have not gained much traction. He thanked members who have already withdrawn proposals in four areas of the negotiations. He said these proponents “have set a good example that members can emulate in the coming months.”
The latest cluster of meetings addressed several topics, including implementation periods for a future agreement on e-commerce, in particular for developing and least developed countries, and horizontal issues such as principles and definitions in the agreement. Negotiators in small group configurations continued to seek convergence on topics such as privacy, telecommunications services, electronic invoicing and cryptography.
A “stocktaking session” examined proposals in the area of trade facilitation and logistics services, as well as cooperation. The work of the stocktaking session will help proponents decide how to take forward proposals that do not enjoy broad support. At this meeting, the group work resulted in two thirds of the proposals being withdrawn or merged. The co-convenors commended members for their flexibility in this regard.
Two new proposals were presented, one on e-commerce and digital inclusion that takes into consideration the interests of indigenous peoples, women, rural communities and micro, small, and medium sized enterprises; and another proposal on special and differential treatment for developing countries.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador George Mina (Australia) invited proponents of articles not yet discussed in the small group format to use the next few weeks to build support, refine proposals, and hold information sessions to advance these proposals. He said : “This is going to be a big few months. It's really important that we are as well prepared as we can be at the outset of 2023, when we get back to plenary.”