On January 26, 2019, the Canada Gazette published a notice from Global Affairs Canada announcing that on January 25, 2019, Canada launched consultations on potential future negotiations on electronic commerce (e-commerce) at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

As part of its interest in achieving binding commitments at the WTO that reflect the reality of modern trade, the Government of Canada is seeking input from stakeholders to inform potential future WTO negotiations on e-commerce. Although the scope of these potential future negotiations has yet to be determined, stakeholder input at this early stage will prove useful in identifying Canadian positions, interests, and sensitivities. To date, the members of the plurilateral group have submitted papers proposing the following themes as bases for possible negotiations:

  • customs and trade facilitation;
  • customs duties on electronic transmissions;
  • market access (for example for goods and services);
  • flow of information across borders;
  • access and non-discrimination;
  • business trust;
  • consumer trust;
  • intellectual property;
  • transparency;
  • infrastructure gaps and the digital divide; and
  • cooperation.

While the Government of Canada would prefer that negotiations involve all WTO members to ensure the most comprehensive and inclusive outcome, current WTO dynamics suggest that plurilateral negotiations, involving a subset of WTO members, are more likely. Such a scenario is similar to the negotiations for the 1996 WTO Information Technology Agreement and its 2015 expansion.

The Minister of International Trade Diversification has directed officials to solicit input from interested stakeholders regarding these potential future WTO negotiations on e-commerce, at this early stage of discussions, and to do this through an open and inclusive process. Global Affairs Canada has subsequently developed a short survey for stakeholders to complete, which can be accessed through the consultation webpage.

All interested parties are invited to complete the survey or submit their input regarding potential future WTO negotiations on e-commerce by April 25, 2019.