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JAN 31, 2024 | GLOBAL | US | INDIA | EUROPEAN UNION

BSA Leads 170 Global Business Orgs Calling for WTO E-Commerce Rule Extension

WASHINGTON – Almost 170 global business organizations joined together to urge the World Trade Organization to extend a longstanding agreement that has been a cornerstone of the digital economy.

As the WTO prepares to consider extending the 26-year-old “e-commerce moratorium” in February, signatory organizations – representing 20 industries ranging from entertainment to manufacturing to technology, and from 130 countries worldwide – sent a strong message in favor of supporting the continued agreement to prohibit customs duties on digital transmissions.

The signers wrote:

Allowing the Moratorium to expire would be a historic setback for the WTO, representing an unprecedented termination of a multilateral agreement in place nearly since the WTO’s inception – an agreement that has allowed the digital economy to take root and grow. All WTO members have a stake in the organization’s continued institutional credibility and resilience, as well as its relevance at a time of unprecedented digital transformation.

WTO member states have agreed to refrain from imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions since 1998, an agreement that must be periodically renewed. The last extension took place in 2022, and will lapse unless it is renewed or made permanent during the WTO Ministerial Conference in February.

“The WTO e-commerce moratorium is a foundation of the modern digital economy, and has empowered digitally-enabled businesses of all sizes to grow and prosper,” said Joseph Whitlock, Executive Director of the Global Data Alliance and Director, Policy at BSA | The Software Alliance. “Allowing WTO members to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions risks having a far-reaching impact on basic digital services and the many industries – ranging from manufacturers to farmers to health care innovators – that have become more digitally connected in the quarter-century since the e-commerce moratorium was first enacted.”

“Extending and making permanent the WTO e-commerce moratorium best serves the interests of India’s digital future,” said Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Country Manager – India, for BSA | The Software Alliance. “India has positioned its economy to take advantage of global demand for software services. Allowing the imposition of duties could endanger India’s ability to continue attracting investment in data processing activities, advanced semiconductor manufacturing, and software development. At a time when many global companies are rethinking their diverse and complex global supply chains, it would not serve India to limit its own ability to attract these investments.”

“WTO ministers face a crucial decision as avoiding customs duties on electronic transmissions is vital for global access to knowledge and economic opportunities. Maintaining the prohibition of such customs duties is not just imperative for Europe but also for our global, digitally connected markets,” said Irma Gudžiūnaitė, BSA’s Director for Policy, EMEA. “The many European and worldwide business organizations that have joined onto this statement help convey the need for a united commitment to global digital trade policies.”

As multiple industries have become more global and digitally dependent over the quarter-century since the e-commerce moratorium was first enacted, allowing the expiration of the moratorium would threaten to upend digital commerce with negative impacts for businesses of all sizes and across virtually every sector.

Signing organizations said:

As detailed by the United Nations, the World Bank, the OECD, and many other organizations, the cross-border exchange of knowledge, technical know-how, and scientific and commercial information across transnational IT networks, as well as access to digital tools and global market opportunities have helped sustain economies, expand education, and raise global living standards.

Continuation of the Moratorium is also important to supply chain resilience for manufacturing and services industries. Manufacturers – both large and small, and across a range of industrial sectors – rely on the constant flow of research, design, and process data and software to enable their production flows and supply chains for critical products.

Read the full Global: 2024 Joint Industry Letter on WTO E-Commerce Moratorium letter here.

ABOUT THE GLOBAL DATA ALLIANCE

The Global Data Alliance (globaldataalliance.org) is a cross-industry coalition of companies that are committed to high standards of data responsibility and that rely on the ability to transfer data around the world to innovate and create jobs. Alliance members are headquartered across the globe and are active in the advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, consumer goods, electronics, financial services, health, media and entertainment, natural resources, supply chain, and telecommunications sectors, among others. BSA | The Software Alliance administers the Global Data Alliance.

ABOUT BSA

BSA | The Software Alliance (www.bsa.org) is the leading advocate for the global software industry before governments and in the international marketplace. Its members are among the world’s most innovative companies, creating software solutions that help businesses of all sizes in every part of the economy to modernize and grow.

With headquarters in Washington, DC, and operations in more than 30 countries, BSA pioneers compliance programs that promote legal software use and advocates for public policies that foster technology innovation and drive growth in the digital economy.

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