UNCTAD to work with nations if they join WTO e-com talks

10 Apr '19
2 min read

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is ready to work with developing countries to enhance their preparedness for e-commerce if they decide to join proposed talks among World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, the UN body’s secretary general Mukhisa Kituyi said recently at the fifth edition of UNCTAD e-Commerce Week in Geneva.

Though 88 WTO members are reluctant to join the process, it is too late in the day for them to be stuck on whether or not there will be e-commerce talks at the global trade body at all, Kituyi said.

"I don’t think anyone should fear to negotiate but nobody should negotiate out of fear," Kituyi said.

India’s ambassador to the WTO J S Deepak argued that proposed negotiations on e-commerce under the WTO were premature. “It’s very important that in this area, we do not leap in the dark,” Deepak said.

Deepak said it was not an opportune time for the proposed negotiations due to the lack of a mandate under the WTO, unpreparedness by countries, and the existence of several unresolved substantive policy issues on e-commerce.

Kituyi urged countries to prioritize the sustainable development dimension of e-commerce, adding that its main would-be beneficiaries are in the countries that are outside the negotiations, and that their interests should be at the heart of any path forward on the future of rulemaking in e-commerce, according to an UNCTAD press release.

The digital economy is growing about 32 per cent faster than the wider economy and creating jobs three times more quickly, said Frances Lisson, ambassador of Australia to the WTO.

She said e-commerce provisions reflecting the nature of trade had increasingly become a feature of free trade and regional trade agreements.

Deepak proposed a bottom-up approach through which UNCTAD could help developing countries and least developed countries to craft digital or e-commerce policies, considering the concerns of all the stakeholders.

UNCTAD e-Commerce Week, an annual gathering, took place from 1 to 5 April with the theme ‘From Digitalization to Development’. (DS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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