E-Commerce and the Digital Economy WTO (Negotiations, Regular Work, Leadership)

The Evolving Context and Dynamics of the WTO Joint Initiative on E-commerce

This report rovides a state of play of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Electronic Commerce as of December 2022, focusing on developments in its fifth year, 2022, while situating it in the evolving e-commerce governance landscape at the national, regional, and multilateral levels.

At the national level, reports on increased policy activity related to e-commerce have warned against increased fragmentation. Regionally, Digital Economy Agreements emerged as more flexible arrangements that may be more suitable for capturing technological trends and innovations impacting e-commerce, such as artificial intelligence. At the multilateral level, and in the aftermath of COVID-19, bridging the digital divide became the core objective for discussions on reinvigorating the WTO Work Programme on Electronic Commerce.

Recent literature on e-commerce and global trends of e-commerce governance, the dynamics of the JSI negotiations in 2022, and the changes in the updated consolidated negotiating text circulated by the JSI co-conveners on December 22, 2022, point to the likelihood of JSI participants opting for a less ambitious agreement focusing on the lower-hanging fruit of e-commerce facilitation by the 13th Ministerial Conference while leaving contentious market access focus issues to potentially dealing with them later.

This report has been produced with funding by UK aid from the British Government. The Umbrella Grant is a project of the Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund (TAF2+) and is implemented by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and CUTS International, Geneva. Views expressed in the publication are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect HM Government’s official positions or those of TAF2+.

This publication is also available in French and Spanish.