WITSA Applauds Extension of WTO’s Customs Duties Moratorium on Electronic Transmissions

Mar 7

Fairfax, VA: The World Innovation, Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) welcomes the World Trade Organization’s decision at its 13th Ministerial Council (MC13) in Abu Dhabi to extend the moratorium on placing customs duties on electronic transmissions, from streaming services to financial transactions and corporate data flows, worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. WITSA also welcomes the reinvigoration of the e-commerce work program to focus more on the development dimension. The moratorium, which has been in place since 1998, was extended until the next WTO ministerial conference (MC14) or 31 March 2026,whichever is earlier. MC13 ministerial decision on e-commerce does not preclude a further extension of the moratorium and work program by ministers at MC14. A few countries actively sought to terminate the moratorium, citing lost customs revenues. WITSA joined other trade associations representing a wide range of sectors in a global industry statement detailing the negative impacts likely to materialize if countries were to start imposing new tariffs on electronic transmissions. The statement included over 200 groups from more than 20 sectors in130 countries.

 “Amidst the growing wave of digital protectionism, this agreement signifies a significant pledge: data-intensive trade must not be unfairly burdened by onerous duties and burdensome customs measures,” stated WITSA Chairman Dato’ Dr. Sean Seah. “The absence of tariffs on electronic transmission has played a pivotal role in facilitating the positive exchange of digital goods and services for more than 25 years. Considering that a few WTO members sought to terminate the moratorium, achieving this outcome is commendable”.

 “WITSA is pleased that WTO members ultimately took into consideration the wider benefits of the Moratorium and did not focus solely on the potential customs revenue implications,” said WITSA CEO Dato’ Dan E. Khoo. “A lapse would come at the expense of wider gains in the economy, including in terms of consumer welfare and export competitiveness,” continued Dato’ Khoo. “The onus is now on the WTO members to come together to agree on a further extension of the moratorium and work program at MC14 or find another multilateral path forward that does not include customs duties on electronic transmissions.”

 “A successful conclusion of the WTO e-commerce negotiations resulting in an agreement would invigorate global digital trade at a critical time and enhance the stature and relevance of the global trade body,” said Mr. Douglas Johnson, Chairman of WITSA’s Global Public Policy Committee. “In a time of geo-political tensions, climate change, and an AI tech revolution of far-reaching implications, the world needs a strong WTO to guide this new phase of global economic interaction.”