Friday 30 November 2018, 08:45 - 14:30

Cross-Border E-Commerce: WTO Discussions and the roles of other stakeholders - Stock-taking and practical ways forward

Organised by the CTEI

Meeting Room C1
Meetings Centre, Maison de la Paix, Geneva, Switzerland

Following the WTO Ministerial in Buenos Aires late last year, a group of 71 countries initiated exploratory work on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce, or digital trade. This group, since expanded to over 90 WTO members, meets monthly in Geneva with the aim to determine a list of topics that would form the basis for WTO trade talks in 2019. The list of topics discussed includes traditional trade issues such as trade facilitation, customs duties, and market access, but also topics to facilitate digital trade including consumer trust, data protection, and spam. Not all countries feel that the time is right for these discussions, and at the same time a number of organisations claim that these issues are more suitable for Internet governance than trade talks.

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together a broad group of stakeholders, including countries inside and outside the talks, along with e-Commerce businesses, international organisations, civil society, and NGOs, with the aim not just to share views, but to work towards conclusions about (i) where to best address the broad range of issues being considered (whether this be at the WTO, in trade agreements or elsewhere; and (ii) for those issues most closely related to trade, how and in what form might the WTO address them?


08:00 onwards  Coffee and registration

09:00-09:30  Opening Session

  • Joost PAUWELYN, Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute, Geneva
Presentation of the Concept Note
  • Michael KENDE, Visiting Professor, Graduate Institute, Geneva
Keynote Address
  • H.E. Ambassador J.S.DEEPAK, Permanent Representative of India to the WTO

9:30 – 11:00  Session 1. Current barriers to cross-border e-commerce

E-Commerce has generated a number of the largest companies in the world, which continue to expand globally. Development support for e-commerce is also provided by international organisations and non-governmental organisations. However, there is relatively little cross-border trade, whether in digital media or goods. This panel will discuss the current market and roadblocks to increased cross-border digital trade, including issues of online trust, authentication, payments, and tariff and non-tariff barriers.


  • H. E. Ambassador Junichi IHARA*, Permanent Representative of Japan to the WTO
  • Hanne MELIN, Director, Global Public Policy and Head of eBay Inc. Public Policy Lab EMEA

Moderator: Richard BALDWIN, Professor of International Economics, Graduate Institute, Geneva

11:00-11:30  Coffee Break

11:30–13.00:  Session 2. Addressing key issues for cross-border e-commerce: The respective roles of WTO and other stakeholders

This session will examine where and how the key issues identified in the previous session should be addressed. In particular, it will seek to find a consensus on the issues best addressed in the ongoing WTO discussions; those best addressed in Internet governance bodies or processes; and identify where new venues or processes may be needed. In bringing together a broad range of stakeholders at the workshop, we will also discuss how existing venues could benefit from input from new sets of stakeholders.


  • Kimberley BOTWRIGHT, Policy Analyst, Digital Trade, International Trade & Investment at the World Economic Forum
  • Sanya REID SMITH, Legal Advisor and Senior Researcher, Third World Network

Moderator: Joost PAUWELYN, Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute, Geneva

13:00–14:30 - Working Lunch at the Restaurant de la Paix, with:

  • Dr C.Y. Cyrus CHU, Permanent Representative of the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu to the World Trade Organization
Wrap-up and ways forward
  • Richard BALDWIN, Professor of International Economics, Graduate Institute, Geneva

14:30 - End of Meeting



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