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Monday, December 18 • 09:00 - 10:30
E-commerce: Good or bad for development? (WS151)

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ORGANIZERS: Public Citizen, South Centre and TWN

Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Trade agreements are shaping the rules that would shape our digital future. Recent reports by the UNCTAD demonstrated that a majority of developing countries do not have an adequate legal structure regarding digital trade, Internet governance, or cyber-security. There are many unknowns regarding the technological advances ahead, and therefore the digital economy. Recognizing the uncertainty in the policy-making process, this panel aims to contribute to debates on trade, internet and development, by placing development priorities at center of e-commerce discussions and policymaker’s considerations.

The 11th Ministerial Meeting (MC11) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has just concluded in Buenos Aires without any substantive outcome. E-commerce was one the hottest topic in the Ministerial discussions. The WTO rulemaking has long been promoted as the revolution that developing countries have been waiting for that would promote innovation, provide many opportunities to Micro and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and contribute to development. Somehow, there seems to be several missing links in this thinking. ‘What kind of rules’ is not being asked?

Developing countries have been clear that their concerns in this arena include increased access to energy, internet, and other information and communication technologies; closing the digital divide; increased infrastructure for logistics including transportation and postal systems; legal and regulatory frameworks; access to finance; and capacity building in technologies to help them prepare to benefit from e-commerce. But these issues are generally not reflected in the proposals that have been submitted, which are far more likely to result in binding and enforceable rules.

This roundtable will provide an overview of the WTO rulesmaking system, update participants on the MC11, and focus on the development aspects of e-commerce and discuss those questions that haven’t been asked:

• What are the proposed E-commerce rules that is sought to be negotiated in various fora- FTAs and WTO?
• What are the implications of proposed E-Commerce rules for most Developing Countries?
• How ready are developing countries in engaging in trade online? Are small and medium-sized enterprises able to easily surpass all the hurdles of offline business and gain export markets easily via e-commerce?
• What are the implications of these E-Commerce rules on internet governance issues?
• Will there be rules to mandate technology transfer to developing countries in order to bridge the digital divide? Or rules that prohibit such transfer?
• What are the challenges developing countries face regarding e-commerce and more pertinently since the WTO is about cross-border trade, cross-border e-commerce?
• Are new WTO rules somehow going to melt away the development challenges faced in developing countries?

This first-of-its kind round-table discussion features speakers representing trade expertise from both government, intergovernemental organizations, CSOs and industry. The event is intended to provide attendees with multiple perspectives from trade delegates, as well as CSO and industry, focusing on the development aspects of the current digital trade agenda.  Thus, this round-table will build a bridge between trade and internet governance worlds. The format will provide an excellent opportunity for active, in-depth discussion and interaction. 

This round-table brings together a range of trade delegates, scholars and CSO experts with a genuine expertise and sensitivity for the concerns of the global South, together.

  • Michael Wamai, Uganda Permanent Mission, Government, Uganda
  • Fernando Rosales, Bolivia Permanent Mission, Government, Bolivia
  • Aileen Kwa, South Centre, Intergovernmental Organization
  • David Snead, i2coalition, Business, United States
  • Pablo Viollier, Derechos Digitales, CSO, Chile
  • Parminder Sigh, Just Net Coalition, CSO, India

Onsite Moderator: 
Sanya Smith Reid (TWN)
Online Moderator:
Francisco Vera Hott (Privacy international) 

The first part of the panel (around 45 minutes) will be dedicated to an interactive roundtable during which the panelists will be asked to provide concise answers (i.e. less than 5-minutes-long) to the questions asked by the moderator. Furthermore, panelists will have the possibility to reply to their peers' statements. Subsequently, the panelists will engage in an open and dynamic debate, during which the audience will play a key role asking questions, providing inputs and steering the discussion. The attendees and the remote participants will be allowed to ask questions during the workshop, but their participation and inputs will be particularly encouraged during the second part of the session.

Session Organizers
avatar for Burcu Kilic

Burcu Kilic

Director, Digital Rights Program, Public Citizen

Monday December 18, 2017 09:00 - 10:30 CET
Room IX - A United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)