U.S. Statement at the Meeting of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce

Ambassador Shea Statement at WTO General CouncilU.S. Statement by Ambassador Dennis Shea,
U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization

Geneva, March 6, 2019

The United States thanks Australia, Japan, and Singapore for their leadership in advancing this initiative throughout 2018.

Our discussions over the past year served as a valuable opportunity to focus on an issue of importance to all our economies.  The digital economy is a powerful force for global economic growth, and the digital trade barriers that are rising around the world threaten to undermine that growth.

This negotiation is an opportunity for a large group of countries to work together to combat these digital trade barriers.  That is why the United States shared our most ambitious ideas for comprehensive, high-standard rules in the past year’s exploratory discussions, and that is why we will continue to press for these negotiations to aim high.

We were pleased to join 75 other Members in releasing the second Joint Statement at Davos, and we are committed to continue our work to support this initiative.

As U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted in January, this initiative will be “successful” if we are able to conclude an ambitious, high-standard agreement that is enforceable and has the same obligations for all participants.

By contrast, if we were to lower our level of ambition and to seek an agreement for agreement’s sake, such an outcome would merely demonstrate the WTO’s irrelevance in addressing the realities of today’s economy.

So, from the U.S. perspective, it is critical that we continue to focus on achieving strong, market-based commitments that address real barriers to digital trade, including restrictions on cross-border data flows and data localization requirements.

The path forward articulated by the co-conveners today seems sensible, and we will plan to share a text-based proposal by the deadline set forth.

We look forward to continuing our active participation in this initiative, working toward high-standard commitments on digital trade.