11 December 2019

No Customs duties on electronic transmissions – WTO extends moratorium

WTO Members have on 10th of December agreed to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). Members also agreed to reinvigorate the work under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, based on the existing mandate. The 12th Ministerial Conference is scheduled to be held on 8-11th of June 2020 in Kazakhstan.

According to the document WT/GC/W/794, dated 9-12-2019 containing the draft General Council decision, the work will include structured discussions in early 2020 based on all trade-related topics of interest brought forward by the Members, including LDCs, including on scope, definition and impact of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.

It may be noted that the Declaration on Global Electronic Commerce was adopted by the WTO Members in the Second Ministerial Conference held in May 1998, declaring that Members will continue their current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. The decision has been since reviewed time and again by the General Council and extension has been granted by consensus.

The Work Programme on Electronic Commerce was adopted in September 1998 and had defined electronic commerce to mean the production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means.

As per reports, Moratorium relating to initiation of “non-violation” complaints under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) has also been extended by the General Council until MC12.