This week, EFF has been at the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s annual Public Forum. Best known to the general public as the locus of anti-globalization protests at its 1999 Ministerial Conference, it’s ironic that the WTO is today the most open and transparent of trade negotiation bodies—an honor it holds mainly because of how closed and opaque the trade negotiations conducted outside the WTO are, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), or on its margins, the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).
This year’s Public Forum, although notionally focusing on inclusive trade, has featured unprecedented interest in digital trade, with dozens of sessions dealing with this topic. Just a few of them, including the workshop “Boundaries and Best Practices for Inclusive Digital Trade” organized by EFF, have been summarized by the Geneva Internet Platform (you can also read slides from some of our workshop’s presentations below).
This explosion of interest in digital trade represents widespread enthusiasm from WTO members (which are 164 countries of the world) for the organization to take up an expanded work program on e-commerce. Currently this work program at the WTO only contains one item: a moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions. But in a “non-paper” dated July 1 this year, the United States proposed an expanded work program that contains a raft of new measures, some copied and pasted straight out of TISA and the TPP—including a provision on encryption that would allow law enforcement backdoors, a ban on local hosting mandates, and a ban on mandates to disclose source code.