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Trade Negotiations on Electronic Commerce

What is at Stake for Developing Countries?

image of Trade Negotiations on Electronic Commerce

The launch of the plurilateral – as distinct of multilateral – negotiations on e-commerce under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by a group of countries is a significant trade policy development. Participation of a critical mass of diverse WTO members with markedly differing policy preferences, non-participation of an even greater number of developing countries, and the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, business models and regulatory requirements, all point to the highly complex nature of the negotiations. Among the key questions that confront trade negotiators is how best the negotiations should allow developing countries – both participants and non-participants – to harness potential benefits of e-commerce and the digital economy for sustainable development. The paper provides an initial discussion of major stakes and policy issues in the “plurilateral” e-commerce negotiations from a development perspective.

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The way forward

The launch of open-ended, plurilateral negotiations on e-commerce is significant for the future regulation of e-commerce and the digital economy more generally. It will also have an important bearing on the future direction and effectiveness of the MTS. Taken together, the negotiations would prove to be of critical importance for developing countries' efforts to derive effective developmental benefits from international trade as a catalyst to progress towards Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. The paper has provided an initial discussion of the plurilateral e-commerce negotiations with particular emphasis on the stakes and issues for developing countries.

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