In recent years the e-commerce agenda has become more complex and has revealed a growing convergence between the areas of trade and digital policy. Diplomats involved in e-commerce talks at the WTO, for example, have been required to discuss the trade implications of a broad range of issues, such as paperless trade, e-payments, data localisation, cybersecurity, encryption and network neutrality. All these topics were encompassed in the papers tabled by member states in preparation for the 11th WTO Ministerial (MC-11), which took place in Buenos Aires, in December 2017. The ministerial did not make new recommendations on e-commerce, but a group of countries decided to ‘initiate exploratory work toward future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of e-commerce’, which could indicate the start of plurilateral negotiations on digital trade.
Against this background, a course on digital commerce has been launched on January 29, with the aim of helping participants better navigate and more meaningfully take part in discussions on e-commerce. The course is offered by DiploFoundation (Diplo), CUTS International Geneva, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), and delivered with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The course will benefit diplomats who follow digital trade negotiations on the multilateral and bilateral levels. While improving their knowledge of e-commerce, participants will also gain the practical skills and information required to discuss specific digital policy aspects, such as cross-border data flows, data localisation, cybersecurity, consumer protection and the implication of emerging technologies to digital trade, such as the Internet of Things and 3D printing. The ‘just-in-time’ nature of the course means that particular emphasis will be given to digital trade negotiations and policy discussions taking place in International Geneva.
According to Dr Jovan Kurbalija, director of DiploFoundation and head of the Geneva Internet platform, ‘e-commerce should be discussed in a transparent, informed and fair manner. Each actor needs to be aware and understand the interrelation between trade and digital policies, as well as the different positions and policy options on the matter. Our course is conceptualised in this spirit’.
The 20 participants come from developing countries and LDCs from all regions. The course will run for 6 weeks and will be delivered through Diplo’s interactive online learning platform. Participants will meet once a week for face-to-face discussions.
For more information about Diplo’s courses, please see: diplomacy.edu/courses