Impatient with a lack of World Trade Organization rules on the explosive growth of e-commerce, 76 members – including the United States, China, the European Union and Japan – agreed to start negotiating a new framework. China, which is locked in a trade war with the United States, signaled conditional support for the initiative but said it should also take into account the needs of developing countries.
E-commerce, or online trade in goods and services, has become a huge component of the global economy.
Trade experts say the global trade rulebook is rapidly becoming outdated and needs to keep up or become obsolete. A recent study found that 70 regional trade agreements already include provisions or chapters on e-commerce.
The WTO’s 164 members failed to consolidate some 25 separate e-commerce proposals at a conference at Buenos Aires in December, including a call to set up a central e-commerce negotiating forum.
E-commerce, which developed largely after the WTO’s creation in 1995, was not part of the Doha round of talks that began in 2001 and eventually collapsed more than a decade later.