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Trade Negotiations on Electronic Commerce

What is at Stake for Developing Countries?

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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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