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UK Ambassador addresses the WTO

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Julian Braithwaite, the United Kingdoms (UK) Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) delivered a statement during the WTO Joint Initiative on E-Commerce plenary session.

He said that the UK has written its own text proposals which sets out the UK’s position on; personal information protection; custom duties on electronic transmissions; source code; cross-border transfer of information; open internet access; location of computing (and financial computing) services; cryptography; paperless trading; electronic contracts; and cybersecurity.

The UK has chosen not to propose new text on; open government data; electronic authentication and electronic signatures; unsolicited commercial electronic data; and online consumer protection. Braithwaite said that the UK ‘strongly supports’ the co-convenors principles set out during the 23 October plenary session. The UK will continue to participate in discussions in support of the UK’s preferred outcomes.

Braithwaite pointed out that the UK is committed to supporting developing countries in participating with these negotiations.

He noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the reliance on electronic communications and that the free flow of data is an essential part of cross-border trade. The increase in data flow is unlikely to reverse back to pre Covid-19 levels when the pandemic ends. He said that the flow of data is at the ‘heart’ of the initiative but was the most sensitive part of the negotiations for many members. Strong views are held by all sides which has led to little progress in the discussions about; privacy; cross-border data flow; and data localisation. The UK hopes to work with members to agree the rules on data which benefit everyone.

Braithwaite said that a truly global digital economy has ‘extraordinary economic potential’. The UK is committed to working with all members and the co-convenors to ensure the initiative reaches a successful conclusion.

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