The Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) suggests that WTO (World Trade Organisation) member countries should address cryptocurrency issues during negotiations on e-commerce agreements. The classification of cryptocurrency within the WTO’s e-commerce framework remains uncertain as the crypto market gains global attention. GTRI believes the debate should revolve around whether cryptocurrency exchanges should be considered “electronic transmissions” within the scope of e-commerce. The outcome of ongoing WTO negotiations could significantly impact global digital trade, given the complex dynamics of the e-commerce landscape.
However, these negotiations faced a challenge when the US, a major player in the global digital space, announced its withdrawal from multiple points under discussion on October 25. This move may trigger a reevaluation of global e-commerce policies. Interestingly, India has abstained from these negotiations due to concerns about unregulated digital trade, a stance seemingly validated by the US withdrawal. The e-transmissions moratorium, introduced in 1998, prohibits countries from imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions and was last extended for two years in June 2022.
The Global Trade Research Initiative highlights that developing countries stand to lose an estimated USD 10 billion in potential tariff revenue annually due to the e-transmissions moratorium, compared to only USD 289 million for high-income countries. The rise of cryptocurrency, a digital currency operating independently of central banks, has added complexity to these discussions. The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the WTO is scheduled for February 26 to 29, 2024, in Abu Dhabi. This conference serves as the highest decision-making body for the organization, comprising 164 member countries.