UNDERSTANDING THE WTO:
CROSS-CUTTING AND NEW ISSUES
A new area of trade involves goods crossing borders electronically. Broadly speaking, this is the production, advertising, sale and distribution of products via telecommunications networks. The most obvious examples of products distributed electronically are books, music and videos transmitted down telephone lines or through the Internet.
The declaration on global electronic commerce adopted by the Second
(Geneva) Ministerial Conference on 20 May 1998 urged the WTO General
Council to establish a comprehensive work programme to examine all trade-related
issues arising from global electronic commerce. The General Council
adopted the plan for this work programme on 25 September 1998, initiating
discussions on issues of electronic commerce and trade by the Goods,
Services and TRIPS (intellectual property) Councils and the Trade and
In the meantime, WTO members also agreed to continue their current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.