According to a WTO press release, the text on e-signatures and authentication “will be part of the outcome the e-commerce initiative seeks to deliver by MC12”.
Seventy-one WTO members announced the JSI on e-commerce at MC11 in December 2017, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce were launched in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2019, with the participation of 76 members.
Eighty-six members currently take part in the negotiations.
World Trade Organization (WTO) members participating in the joint statement initiative (JSI) process on e-commerce announced they have finalized a “clean” negotiating text on e-signatures and authentication, which seeks to ensure that electronic signatures used in online transactions “are not denied their value or legal effect because they are submitted in electronic format.”
At a meeting, held on 20 April 2021, Gintare Kemekliene (EU), the facilitator of the small group discussions on the topic, reported that the clean text, which derives from 11 proposals tabled by members at the start of the process, is the result of members’ hard work and flexibility.
Australia, Japan, and Singapore, the co-conveners of the talks, commended participating members for their hard work, and encouraged them to accelerate their efforts to meet deadlines fixed for 2021, which include a total of ten clean texts on various issues by the summer break and “substantial progress” at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). “We need to maintain the energy with which the group started this year,” they stated.
Co-convener Ambassador George Mina (Australia) said the text is a “fundamental element of e-commerce as it contributes to more efficient and more secure commerce and will promote digital trade and economic growth.”
According to a WTO press release, the text on e-signatures and authentication “will be part of the outcome the e-commerce initiative seeks to deliver by MC12,” which is scheduled to convene from 30 November to 3 December 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.
In February 2021, participating members arrived at a clean text on unsolicited commercial messages, or spam.
Also, during the 20 April meeting, the facilitators of small group discussions reported on the recent weeks’ work on text proposals covering online consumer protection, paperless trading, open government data, source code, customs duties on electronic transmission, and open internet access. Members heard a report of the discussions undertaken in a recently established small group on e-contracts.
Ahead of the discussion on telecommunications services, where members revisited previously tabled proposals, co-convener Ambassador Hung Seng Tan (Singapore) described the rapidly evolving telecommunications landscape as “one of the fundamental pillars supporting the digital economy,” and advocated for having “clear rules in this area,” which, he said, “will provide businesses with certainty and encourage digital adoption and innovation.”
The first proposal on telecommunications services seeks to update the WTO Telecommunications Services Reference Paper, a set of regulatory principles for participants to consider adopting in their schedules of basic telecommunications commitments, to ensure that the disciplines cover the internet and the telecommunications services “that shape the ecosystem of online commerce.” The second proposal addresses the production, supply, and treatment of e-commerce-related network equipment and products, needed to facilitate online transactions. Members also discussed a proposal on transparency in telecommunications services.
In his concluding remarks, co-convener Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki (Japan) said in the next meeting, the e-commerce initiative will address data-related issues.
Seventy-one WTO members announced the JSI on e-commerce at MC11 in December 2017, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce were launched in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2019, with the participation of 76 members. Eighty-six members currently take part in the negotiations. [WTO Press Release] [WTO Background on E-Commerce]