TACD urges WTO negotiators not to interfere with digital rights

Today, TACD publishes a resolution on digital trade urging WTO negotiators not to interfere with digital rights and setting out a number of recommendations.

The resolution comes after the statement released on Friday 25 January 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where a group of 76 World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries announced its intention to commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce. These proposed negotiations would likely cover topics including digital trade, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and net neutrality and radically influence public interests including data protection and privacy.

TACD holds that any digital trade negotiations at the WTO must be transparent, inclusive and enhance consumer trust. TACD’s position is that trade negotiations do not comply with basic principles of democratic decision-making. Therefore, such far-reaching discussions around digital policies should not take place through any trade agreements. The development of e-commerce has the potential to boost the competitiveness of the economy and improve consumer choice and welfare, but this is only possible if consumer trust and confidence are strengthened.

Many new digital policy matters have entered trade negotiations under the umbrella term “e-commerce”. It has now become the common word used in trade discussions to refer to issues that go beyond those related to how consumers buy goods and services online. In a similar vein, the participating countries wish these negotiations to cover a broad range of issues with far-reaching implications for privacy, competition, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and the future of jobs, to name just a few. If not carefully negotiated, the outcome could be detrimental to consumer rights in the digital environment.

TACD therefore makes three main recommendations to trade negotiators:

Ensure meaningful transparency and proactive engagement with legislators, stakeholders and citizens. Consumers must be able to monitor discussions, be proactively consulted and provide input;

Put consumers at the forefront. Provisions that ensure protections and rights for consumers could enhance consumer trust online, e.g. by ensuring product safety, proper consumer information, contractual rights information and redress options.

Recognize trade deals are not the appropriate fora to tackle every aspect of digital policy. Topics such as cybersecurity, internet of things, artificial intelligence, net neutrality or data protection are important, but this does not mean they should be addressed in the context of trade agreements – especially when domestic legislation is rapidly evolving;

Read the full resolution here.

Who to contact
– TACD Coordinator, Alexandra Graziano (agraziano@consint.org)