On May 16, 2022, a meeting of the Council on Trade and Services of the World Trade Organization took place. In the discussions led by participating members, there were relevant topics that were highlighted, such as the Electronic Commerce Work Program and the implementation of a waiver to the Services Agreement that benefits less developed countries.
The Electronic Commerce Work Program, created in 1998, aims to explore the relationship between existing WTO Agreements and electronic commerce. Within the framework of this work program, the WTO Councils for Trade Services, for the Trade of Intellectual Property Goods, and for Intellectual Property Aspects review and reporting on the aspects of the trade of electronic goods, within the scope of the Service Agreements, the GATT 1994, and Intellectual Property, respectively. In addition, the Trade and Development Committee analyzes and reports on the development implications of Electronic Commerce for developing countries, by taking into account economic, financial, and developmental aspects.
At the Trade and Services Council meeting on the 16th, the members had the opportunity to share their own strategies for digital development in the context of this work program. The members reported that the continuation of the discussions within the Work Program is related to the necessity of extending the agreement between members for the non-imposition of import taxes on electronic transmissions (moratorium on e-commerce). This could be discussed at the next Ministerial Conference (the 12th Ministerial Conference, which will be held in June 2022 in Geneva).
Another important topic of discussion was the implementation of a waiver to the WTO Services Agreement, in order to favor the lesser developed countries. Given that one of the objectives of the Services Agreement is to increase the participation of countries classified as less developed in trade services, the waiver would allow preferential treatment of services and the service suppliers from lesser developed countries, favoring the achievement of this goal.
Fifty-one (51) WTO member countries have already notified the guarantee of preferential treatment for less developed countries through means of the waiver up till now. Expanding the adoption of this waiver is one of the priorities already mentioned in the 12th Ministerial Conference.
Besides these two topics, the Russian delegation also expressed concern about the restrictions that are being imposed on the Russian service sector, as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. The members emphasized that the restrictions are a consequence of the invasion, which is condemned by the majority of the members.
Finally, member countries also mentioned five other concerns, which have already been addressed in previous meetings, involving cyber security, location of service consumers, and others.