Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Work programme on electronic commerce

Adopted by the General Council on 25 September 1998

1.1 The Declaration on global electronic commerce adopted by Ministers at the second session of the Ministerial Conference urgedthe General Council to establish a comprehensive work programme to examine all trade-related issues relating to global electronic commerce, taking into account the economic, financial, and development needs of developing countries, and to report on the progress of the work programme, with any recommendations for action, to the Third Session. The General Council therefore establishes the programme for the relevant WTO bodies as set out in paragraphs 2 to 5. Further issues may be taken up at the request of Members by any of these bodies. Other WTO bodies shall also inform the General Council of their activities relevant to electronic commerce.

1.2 The General Council shall play a central role in the whole process andkeep the work programme under continuous review through a standing item on its agenda. In addition, the General Council shall take up consideration of any trade-related issue of a cross-cutting nature.All aspects of the work programme concerning the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmission shall be examined in the General Council.The General Council will conduct an interim review of progress in the implementation of the work programme by 31 March, 1999. The bodies referred to in paragraphs 2 to 5 shall report or provide information to the General Council by 30 July 1999.

1.3 Exclusively for the purposes of the work programme, and without prejudice to its outcome, the term "electronic commerce" is understood to mean the production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means. The work programme will also include consideration of issues relating to the development of the infrastructure for electronic commerce.

1.4 In undertaking their work, these bodies should take into account the work of other intergovernmental organizations. Consideration should be given to possible ways of obtaining information from relevant non-governmental organizations.

Council for Trade in Services back to top

2.1 The Council for Trade in Services shall examine and report on the treatment of electronic commerce in the GATS legal framework. The issues to be examined shall include:

- scope (including modes of supply) (Article I);
- MFN (Article II);
- transparency (Article III);
- increasing participation of developing countries (Article IV);
- domestic regulation, standards, and recognition (Articles VI and VII);
- competition (Articles VIII and IX);
- protection of privacy and public morals and the prevention of fraud (Article XIV);
- market-access commitments on electronic supply of services (including commitments on basic and value added telecommunications services and on distribution services) (Article XVI);
- national treatment (Article XVII);
- access to and use of public telecommunications transport networks and services (Annex on Telecommunications);
- customs duties;
- classification issues.

Council for Trade in Goods back to top

3.1 The Council for Trade in Goods shall examine and report on aspects of electronic commerce relevant to the provisions of GATT 1994, the multilateral trade agreements covered under Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement, and the approved work programme. The issues to be examined shall include:

- market access for andaccess to products related toelectronic commerce;
- valuation issues arising from the application of the Agreement on Implementation of Article VII of the GATT 1994;
- issues arising from the application of the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures;
- customs duties and other duties and charges as defined under Article II of GATT 1994;
- standards in relation to electronic commerce;
- rules of origin issues;
- classification issues.

Council for TRIPs back to top

4.1 The Council for TRIPS shall examine and report on the intellectual property issues arising in connection with electronic commerce. The issues to be examined shall include:

- protection and enforcement of copyright and related rights;
- protection and enforcement of trademarks;
- new technologies andaccess to technology.

Committee for Trade and Development back to top

5.1 The Committee on Trade and Development shall examine and report on the development implications of electronic commerce, taking into account the economic, financial and development needs of developing countries. The issues to be examined shall include:

- effects of electronic commerce on the trade and economic prospects of developing countries, notably of their small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and means of maximizing possible benefits accruing to them;
- challenges to and ways of enhancing the participation of developing countries in electronic commerce, in particular as exporters of electronically delivered products: role of improved access to infrastructure and transfer of technology, and of movement of natural persons;
- use of information technology in the integration of developing countries in the multilateral trading system;
- implications for developing countries of the possible impact of electronic commerce on the traditional means of distribution of physical goods;
- financialimplications of electronic commerce for developing countries.