Remarks by DG Azevêdo

(check against delivery)

Good morning everyone.

Thank you for inviting me to join you today — even though I can only stay for a few minutes.

At the outset, I would like to thank Australia, Japan and Singapore for organizing this meeting. I also want to commend all signatories of this Joint Statement for their work thus far.

The digital economy has already become central to the way we do business in the 21st century. And this trend will only increase. But unlike for goods and services, we have few international rules to facilitate cross-border electronic commerce and align regulations. The absence of such rules risks fragmentation and unilateral action.

Your efforts in this group offer a better path: towards predictability, interoperability and trust — and, of course, lower costs for businesses and consumers.

Your discussions have enabled WTO members to better understand the issues at stake in e-commerce. And you have taken important steps towards future rules in many areas.

Over the past year, this initiative took big steps forward. The talks became more concrete, as you streamlined proposals and debated policy alternatives. The Osaka Track, launched during the G20 summit in Japan, gave this work an important boost.  

More and more members have joined this ministerial statement — Indonesia and Cameroon being the latest. This has brought a more diverse range of perspectives to the table.

All this engagement sends very positive signals. It shows a strong appetite for international economic cooperation on digital trade for the benefit of people and businesses in each participating country.

Today's discussion is about building momentum for your negotiations in the run-up to our 12th Ministerial Conference in Kazakhstan.

That meeting is a clear landmark for many of the ongoing discussions at the WTO. So it is very important that this group looks very seriously at how to seize that occasion.

I would just like to leave you with two thoughts:

First, continue to keep this process inclusive and open. This means doing it at the WTO.

It is essential that issues fundamental to the 21st century economy, such as e-commerce, are debated at the WTO. At the same time, negotiating rules at the WTO will enhance their legitimacy and geographical coverage, since the door will be open to other members to get informed and join if they so wish.

Second, use MC12 to show that you mean business.

Substantive deliverables on e-commerce — if not full agreements, then concrete negotiating texts or partial agreements — would show the world that this process is serious about articulating shared rules of the game for digital trade.

Softer outcomes in Nur-Sultan, such as a general stocktaking or a roadmap, would be a missed opportunity.

I hope you will send a strong message to your negotiators to fully engage in the coming months. Success is within reach, given sufficient determination.

I will support you in any way I can.

Thank you.




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