Statement by the Just Net Coalition:

The Dangers of the E-Commerce Agenda in Trade Negotiations

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We have been among the 309 civil society organizations2 who have called upon the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to refrain from accepting the proposals of WTO members who are pushing a dangerous and inappropriate new agenda under the disguising rubric of “e-commerce”.


Key provisions of the proposals which are not acceptable from the point of view of important public interests include: a prohibition of requirements to hold data locally; a prohibition of otherwise regulating cross-border data transfers; a prohibition of requiring a local presence for goods/service providers in the country; and a prohibition of requiring open source software in government procurement contracts. It is also proposed that there be no border taxes on digital products.


Furthermore, it is being proposed to effectively give the WTO jurisdiction to adjudicate whether a national technology or data regulation was “reasonable,” “objective,” “transparent,” and “not more burdensome than necessary to ensure the quality of the service.” WTO’s adjudication processes have historically tended to favour commercial interests, and giving them a blanket supervision of technology/ data regulation may go against governments’ obligation to ensure that services are operated in the public interest and respect human rights and freedoms.


In addition, discussions in WTO and in so-called free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations are neither transparent nor inclusive, thus resulting in decisions that do not take into account the interests of all concerned parties. The processes are overly influenced by big business interests.


We discuss below first the procedural shortcomings of discussing e-commerce matters in trade negotiations, then the substantive dangers....


(Continue reading in the attached pdf file)
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