Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, the facilitator of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce at the World Trade Organization (WTO), conducted a dedicated session on October 18th to gather member input on the forthcoming 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13). During the meeting, Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady reported on her consultations with WTO members regarding potential outcomes at MC13 and sought their views on the way forward, including the moratorium on customs duties for e-commerce.
The consultations aimed to gauge whether any of the previously discussed issues related to reinvigorating the Work Programme could be turned into recommendations for ministers at MC13. Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady also encouraged members to consider how the Work Programme could be made more effective, particularly in addressing contemporary challenges and development concerns.
She noted that members had acknowledged the progress achieved during this year's dedicated discussions and emphasized the need to recognize these achievements in a draft Ministerial Decision. Many delegations expressed the view that the Work Programme had been successfully revitalized in line with the mandate from MC12. They believed that dedicated discussions should continue to explore various e-commerce issues in-depth.
Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady highlighted that the development dimension was a crucial aspect of members' future work. Members expressed support for enhancing technical assistance and capacity building. They also recognized the WTO's role in convening relevant international organizations and stakeholders, including the private sector, to discuss e-commerce matters in a structured manner.
Regarding the moratorium on customs duties for e-commerce, Ambassador Dwarka-Canabady suggested addressing the topic during the upcoming dedicated discussion in November. During this session, the WTO Secretariat will present findings from a collaborative study conducted with international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and the World Bank. Members will subsequently focus on crafting a potential decision to present to ministers at MC13.
Djibouti, on behalf of the Least-Developed Countries (LDC) Group, announced plans to update their proposal to reflect positive developments in e-commerce while highlighting remaining gaps for LDCs. Additionally, India submitted a proposal on promoting competition in e-commerce, which received support from South Africa. The African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries (ACP Group) stated their intention to submit a proposal outlining their views on the future of the Work Programme and the moratorium.
These consultations and discussions underscore the WTO's commitment to addressing e-commerce and trade-related challenges, particularly in the context of sustainable development and global trade.