[ccwg-internet-governance] Fwd: [Internet Policy] Proposals to WTO regarding e-commerce

Greg Shatan gregshatanipc at gmail.com
Tue Jun 20 16:47:41 UTC 2017

I thought the CWG-IG would find this of interest.  No endorsement, express
or implied; I am but a mere conduit.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Richard Hill <rhill at hill-a.ch>
Date: Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 8:59 AM
Subject: [Internet Policy] Proposals to WTO regarding e-commerce
To: internetpolicy at elists.isoc.org

You will find attached leaked versions of documents that have been
submitted to WTO.

I find these documents to be truly shocking, but perhaps I misunderstand
them.  For what it is worth, here are my thoughts.

First, the scope of JOBSERV248 is such that WTO would take over essentially
all aspects of everything related to ICT policy.  That would be a vast
expansion of WTO’s mandate and scope, and would come close to the creation
of the “new body” that Parminder Jeet Singh and others have advocated. I
thought that the TRIPs experience would have led people to stop bringing
non-trade issues into WTO.

Second, WTO is the least open and least transparent intergovernmental
organization that I know of.  The proponents of JOBSERV248 consistently
insist that Internet governance discussions (and by extension discussions
of ICT policies) should take place only in so-called multi-stakeholder
forums.  While there is some disagreement about what is or is not an
appropriate multi-stakeholder forum, it is obvious that WTO is not at all
multi-stakeholder.  So I find it astonishing that these states are
proposing to discuss e-commerce in WTO.  I realize that hypocrisy is common
in international relations, but it seems to me that this is taking it to
new heights.

Third, it seems reasonable to assume that the purpose of the JOBSERV248
exercise is to negotiate the issues it mentions under the principles that
(1) more free trade is always good and (2) data is just one more commodity
that should be flow freely.  Neither principle is correct.   See my
submission to CWG-Internet at:


The TNSW from the UE is even more stunning as an example of hypocrisy.  The
measures that they propose to combat spam (which are sensible) are far
weaker than the measures that they refused to accept in the 2012 ITRs.  Why
propose in WTO things that were vehemently rejected in ITU?  Perhaps
because the goal is to discuss matters on the basis of the principle that
“free trade is always good” and in a setting where the OECD countries can
exercise their economic power to obtain concessions from developing

Another obvious problem with the TNSW is that WTO would be duplicating or
contradicting the work of other agencies.  For example, why should WTO
discuss electronic contracts?  The matter has been handled by UNITRAL.  If
more work is needed, then UNCITRAL should be asked to carry it out.

TNWS asks WTO to handle a vast range of issues that are not normally
considered to be primarily trade issues, e.g. consumer protection, spam,
etc.  As for JOBSERV248, it appears to me to be an attempt to move all
policy discussions into a secret forum in which OECD countries have a
competitive bargaining advantage.

In my view, discussing e-commerce in WTO is anathema because (1) it is not
even a semblance of a multi-stakeholder forum and (2) it will surely result
in a very bad deal for developing countries.

Maybe US President Trump will be kind enough to oppose this, which will be
the easiest way to avoid it.  But I don’t think that he will.

Or maybe I misunderstand the scope, implications, and/or intent of these
papers, in which case I would appreciate being corrected.


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