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Electronic Commerce and the WTO. By Rachel Thompson*
Oct 21, 2002

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  • But the WTO Secretariat also ventured into policy prescription, prior to any formal discussion among WTO members, in a number of ways. First by proposing a definition of electronic commerce for WTO purposes: “the production, advertising, sale and distribution of products via telecommunication networks” (which was adopted six months later without much debate). Second, by arguing that electronic commerce can be divided into three broad categories for the purpose of trade policy discussion: (i) the searching stage where producers and consumers, or buyers and sellers, first interact; (ii) the ordering and payment stage once a transaction has been agreed upon; and (iii) the delivery stage; and that it was stage (iii) that produces the most significant WTO policy questions in respect of electronically delivered transactions. Third, by arguing that apart from this last question, the existing WTO rules applied and were adequate (“products which are bought and paid for over the Internet but are delivered physically would be subject to existing WTO rules on trade in goods”), and that in the case of this last question (“products that are delivered as digitalised information over the Internet”), both the supply of Internet access services and many of the products delivered over the Internet fall within the ambit of the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

    Fourth, by identifying a closed set of issues for further study by the WTO members: (I) the legal and regulatory framework for Internet transactions, (ii) security and privacy questions, (iii) taxation, (iv) access to the Internet, (v) market access for suppliers over the Internet, (vi) trade facilitation, (vii) public procurement, (viii) intellectual property questions, and (ix) regulation of content.

    The WTO Secretariat’s list showed a highly selective approach to what was relevant to the WTO or already covered by existing WTO Agreements (and thus, by clear implication, did not require policy debate or action in Geneva). It had already said that electronicallytransmitted products were clearly services, covered by GATS, a view not shared by all WTO members. In fact, although the Secretariat study did not spell this out, the WTO had existing rules and structures applicable only to points (iv) on Internet access (via the Basic Telecom Agreement), (v) on market access for goods and services under GATT and GATS and (viii) intellectual property. By contrast the other points, where the Secretariat recommended policy debate, were not so clearly a part of the WTO mandate: point (i) is, as in other areas of commercial law, a matter for national decision; points (ii) and (ix) are covered only by way of exceptions for national policy flexibility from GATT, GATS and TRIPS; point (iii) is subject to the same limitation on WTO coverage of tax issues as non-Internet tax issues, i.e. only when used to circumvent WTO market access commitments or WTO subsidy rules are taxes a WTO issue; point (vi) trade facilitation, is an area where as yet no discrete WTO rules exist; and point (vii) government procurement is an area where only a plurilateral WTO agreement exists.

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    Comments [Add Comment]

    Capitalism is supposed to be a simple economic system
    posted by Tapart News Advocate on 2/23/2004 at 6:00:48 PM

    "Capitalism is supposed to be a simple economic system. It should make it easier for all mankind to be good. All business enterprises need a markup. This markup should be based on local value added economies from the raw product up through to the production stages and to the retail level. If parts of this process is missing in any given geopolitical setting than the whole is affected. There will always be someone who will do something for less. There are all sorts of manipulations where the making and selling of a product as a reasonable markup will be replaced. Consortiums can find ways to gain market shares by selling certain segments of their commerce under costs. The final water mark in gobalism is down to wage slave labor and even child labor combined with destroying safety and ecology regulations. It is obvious companies move their factories to escape these overheads. Companies also move to escape the entitlement societies and in the end, nations find if more difficult to maintain the social and economic balance that took years to evolve. Catherine Mann uses the 1990s for comparisons with more jobs being dislocated in that time than ever before. Workers were promised help if NAFTA, GATT etc cost them their jobs but few if any got any real help. Over a million lost their jobs in the computer industry alone for the past dozen years. In 1998 while a statistical prosperity was proclaimed by President Clinton over 250,000 lost their jobs in high tech. And this was during the time when government and companies poured in billions of dollars to correct the Y2k crisis. This acted as a false stimulus and all bets are off for this reason in comparing the so called statistical prosperity. Unemployment was actually at 15% or more if compared to any unemployment reporting with the past where full time jobs with benefits were the core of all jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics admitted that they could no longer use any of the data from the unemployment offices since only about 40% of all workers could qualify for unemployment insurance. The majority of workers did not make enough money or work long enough at any one jobs to qualify. Personal bankruptcies, the homeless population, the need for emergency food and the trade deficit broke records but were ignored. Against this backdrop, we have people like Catherine Mann doing her thing with statistics and numbers that just do not add up especially if compared to the more prosperous times in our recent history. It seems the big lie works better than the realities of the street and how people live out these terrible times with millions drifting into a silent depression. For more information, see Tapart News and Art that Talks with commentaries and topical art by Ray Tapajna, Chuck Harder, Paul Donovan and others. See the Cross 9/11 Tangle of Terror Artwork asking who will now untangle the terror Globalism has bred. Read America in Terror by Chuck Harder and the House of Cards economy by Paul Donovan. Help restore the American Dream. Vote out everyone that was part of the passage of NAFTA, GATT, WTO and Fast Track. Reference sites at http://yestapart.bizland.com/tapartnews http://tapsnewstory.filetap.com http://arklineart.fotopages.com"

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