WTO Public Forum 2019

Working Session "E-Commerce Governance at Domestic, Regional and Multilateral Levels: Asian Perspectives" at the WTO Public Forum 2019

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Date & Time:

October 9, 2019 (Wednesday) 16:30-18:00 (local time)


Room D, the WTO Headquarters, Geneva

  • See Kiat Toh(Chairman, Goodwins Law Corporation)
  • Shintaro Hamanaka(Overseas Research Fellow, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO))
  • Mosi Li(Research Professor, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE))
  • J.J. Pan(Secretary General, World Trustmark Alliance)
  • Yukiko Aoyama(Research Management Officer, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO) )
Working session summary:

The moderator, Yukiko Aoyama, opened the session, explaining the aims of the session, and the scale and importance of e-commerce in Asia. The four panelists made initial remarks about e-commerce governance in this region.

Dr. See Kiat Toh dealt with four aspects of the WTO’s rules on e-commerce from the point of view of the private sector, especially micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Asia:

(1) Emerging issues in e-commerce;

(2) Issues faced by developing countries in Asia;

(3) What governments can do; and

(4) E-commerce friendly regulations and policies: A wish list.

Dr. Shintaro Hamanaka gave a presentation on international rule-making on e-commerce. He specifically examined the evolution of e-commerce chapters under free trade agreements (FTAs), especially those in Asia-Pacific. His presentation emphasized three points. First, the e-commerce chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) made landmark achievements in some areas (e.g. prohibition of data localization), but not in others (e.g. online consumer protection). Second, the TPP e-commerce chapter’s landmark achievements are reflected in some FTAs (e.g. Japan-Mongolia and Australia-Indonesia), but not in others (e.g. Australia-China). Third, despite the US withdrawal from the TPP, the TPP and other recent FTAs in Asia-Pacific that include the US (such as US-Japan and US-Mexico-Canada) are likely to be the “template” for future e-commerce negotiations in Asia-Pacific.

Dr. Mosi Li explained current e-commerce policy and regulation in China. China’s cross-border data flows regime has perhaps received the most attention. In the WTO e-commerce joint initiative negotiations, China detailed its position, saying issues like data flow and data storage required “more exploratory discussions” before they could be part of the negotiations. The main policy rationale could be cybersecurity, personal information protection, data security, and government access to data. However, delving deeper, the real concerns of the Chinese government are with respect to adequate internet governance, robust domestic regulatory infrastructure, and jurisdictional dilemma. The Chinese government has shown its political will to open-up by launching several related experimental projects.

Dr. J.J Pan described how trust and data ethics are used and necessary in e-commerce, along with AI developments in big data era. She addressed issues at different levels of business, government, and industry, outlined ways to deal with challenges, and accordingly provided possible solutions/suggestions for businesses and governments. She also explained APEC CBPRs’ innovative approach to cooperation on data privacy and secured data flow, thus not only protects personal data but also facilitates trade to benefit consumers and businesses by obtaining their confidence and trust.

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Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization  Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization

World Trustmark Alliance World Trustmark Alliance

For WTO Public Forum 2019 programme, including the audio recording of each session, please visit: