[bestbits] Fwd: WTO Needs Far-Reaching Digital Trade Pact, Experts Say

Carolina Rossini carolina.rossini at gmail.com
Mon Jan 25 04:17:22 EST 2016

WTO Needs Far-Reaching Digital Trade Pact, Experts Say

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By *Alex Lawson*
Law360, New York (January 22, 2016, 3:03 PM ET) -- Policymakers around the
globe should begin thinking about negotiations for an expansive World Trade
Organization agreement devoted solely to digital trade, e-commerce and
telecommunications issues, according to an expert paper circulated at the
World Economic Forum Friday.

While acknowledging the progress made on digital trade in recent regional
trade deals, the paper — prepared jointly by the WEF and the the
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development — said the time
has come for an agreement that tackles those issues head-on at the World
Trade Organization.

“There is a need to develop greater consensus or a critical mass around
core concepts regarding cross-border data flows,” the paper said. “Rules
and principles to support and expand digital trade are being inserted in
some trade agreements. This is a positive step that should be discussed and
expanded to more jurisdictions.”

The authors specifically cited the recently concluded Trans-Pacific
Partnership and the still-underway Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership as examples of significant trade deals tackling e-commerce,
which they said should be used as a springboard for similar work on a
broader platform.

“This work provides a basis for developing a specific agreement on digital
trade that should be negotiated at the WTO on a plurilateral basis — open
to those interested in joining, with consideration given to applying any
such agreement on a [most-favored-nation] basis to all WTO members,” the
paper said.

On an overarching policy level, the paper argued that a new agreement
should allow for the unconstrained flow of data across borders between
willing partners, and that the only exception should be one that is
narrowly tailored and based on national security considerations.

Furthermore, the experts said there ought to be wide-ranging rules barring
countries from requiring data to be stored only on local servers as a
condition for market entry. This concept is enshrined within the TPP, but
that agreement has also drawn fire
leaving the financial services sector on the outside of those protections.

Even before launching new WTO talks on digital trade, the paper recommended
updating certain existing WTO pacts to better accommodate 21st century
traders, beginning with the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The TFA — which was completed in 2013 and has been ratified by 68 WTO
members — aims to streamline the flow of goods across borders around the
globe, but could be modernized by installing a unified de minimis customs
level under which no duties will applied, according to the experts’

“For trade in lower value goods that the Internet is enabling, such costs
account for a relatively larger share of the total value, making it an even
more serious trade barrier,” the paper said.

More broadly, the World Economic Forum and International Centre for Trade
and Sustainable Development experts said that throughout these processes,
there should be a robust dialogue between governments, the private sector
and advocacy groups that often pushed back against digital trade
liberalization because of privacy concerns.

“Ensuring security of the network is one of the key issues that affects
consumer and business confidence in addition to the direct costs that
security breaches have on individual businesses,” they said.

--Editing by Bruce Goldman.


*Carolina Rossini *
*Vice President, International Policy*
*Public Knowledge*
*http://www.publicknowledge.org/ <http://www.publicknowledge.org/>*
+ 1 6176979389 | skype: carolrossini | @carolinarossini


*Carolina Rossini *
*Vice President, International Policy*
*Public Knowledge*
*http://www.publicknowledge.org/ <http://www.publicknowledge.org/>*
+ 1 6176979389 | skype: carolrossini | @carolinarossini
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