Here’s what you need to know
International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox will travel to World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva today to discuss next steps to promote the modernisation of global trade rules around e-commerce.
The digital sector accounted for more than £32 billion of UK exports in services in 2015, a growth of almost 40 per cent since 2010 and yet many of the relevant WTO rules around the digital economy have not been updated for two decades.
Dr Fox will meet with trade Ministers from Australia, Japan and Singapore to discuss future trade rules on e-commerce and also the WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo, ahead of the UK taking up its independent seat at the WTO. Last year, Mr Azevêdo warned the WTO’s 164 members at its biennial Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires that a lack of progress in modernising trade rules for the internet age risked making the global trade system irrelevant to much of the global economy.
The UK joined 70 WTO members in Buenos Aires, who agreed to take forward discussions on how trade rules could be updated, and Fox made it clear that pushing for future agreement would be a key ambition for the UK as an independent member after it leaves the EU.
International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox said: “As the digital economy continues to develop rapidly around areas such as big data and artificial intelligence, it is vital that the WTO’s trade policy is modern and ambitious enough to foster innovation while ensuring adequate protection for consumers. And yet the principle WTO rules for the digital economy have not been updated for more than two decades.
“That is why, as an international economic department we will help ensure that the rules around e-commerce are fit for the 21st century to improve access to developing countries and allow SMEs to reach more consumers around the world than ever before.
“Failing to act on this risks the global trade system lagging behind the pace of modern technology, with unnecessary barriers to e-commerce trade stifling growth and innovation.”