The EU has published its initial eCommerce proposals (Proposal) to be discussed at the WTO negotiating meeting, which is ongoing at the time of writing. The EU has been a member of the WTO for more than 20 years. The 28 member states of the EU are also members of the WTO in their own right. The negotiating meeting aims to secure a trade deal to govern global eCommerce.

The Proposal includes provisions on electronic contracts, consumer protection, and revisions to the WTO reference paper on telecommunications services. We include more detail on some of the more pertinent provisions below.

International transfers of data

The Proposal recommends that cross-border data flows should be unhindered. This includes ensuring there are no requirements:

1. for computer facilities or parts of networks to be in a specific territory for processing;

2. for data localisation in a specific territory for storage or processing;

3. prohibiting data storage or processing in a specific territory; and/or

4. that any international data transfer must use computing facilities or parts of a network in a specific territory or require data localisation.

Data privacy

The Proposal recommends that:

1. countries recognise that personal data protection and privacy are fundamental rights and that standards are established to facilitate trust and the development of trade; and

2. countries may adopt safeguards they deem appropriate to protect personal data and privacy, including the adoption and application of rules for international data transfers.

Open internet access

The EU wants to ensure that an open internet is maintained. The Proposal contains net neutrality provisions that would ensure non-discriminatory network management. The Proposal also provides for internet users. It recommends ensuring that users can connect to the internet and be informed of the network management practices of their internet access service provider.

Comment

The Proposal is an indication of the key talking points for the current WTO negotiations. Although significant areas have been included in the Proposal, questions remain. These include international data transfer issues, such as continued reliance on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and UK-EEA data transfers in the event of a ‘hard Brexit’. We expect further developments in this area and will continue to comment on additional updates on this blog.