Australia, Japan and Singapore hosted an informal meeting of Ministers on the World Trade Organization (WTO) e-commerce initiative in the margins of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Ministers welcomed the progress made in the WTO e-commerce initiative since its launch at the eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in 2017.

Ministers exchanged views on how WTO negotiations can capture opportunities offered by e-commerce for businesses, consumers and the global economy. The importance of working in an innovative, open and inclusive manner was expressed. The unique opportunities and challenges faced by Members, including developing countries and LDCs, as well as by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), were also highlighted.

Following the meeting, 76 WTO Members representing over 90 percent of global trade issued a Joint Statement (Annex) confirming their intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce, with the objective of achieving a high standard outcome with the participation of as many Members as possible.

Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said,

“Commencing WTO negotiations on e-commerce is a significant step towards updating international trade rules in line with how modern business is done.”

“Through these negotiations we will demonstrate the importance of the multilateral trading system in helping reduce barriers, remove red tape and increase global trade.”

Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said,

“It would be truly meaningful for the world economy if we could create trade rules for the 21st century that address the new challenges and promote the growth of digital economy.”

Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran said,

“Digital trade is the future of global trade. It fosters inclusive growth by enabling MSMEs to reach global markets. Modern WTO digital trade rules that address core needs will create an open and predictable environment for businesses to better harness the digital economy.”