- The decision at the Ministerial Conference in June 2020 will depend on techno-legal aspects of the matter as well as economic and political trade-offs between WTO members
- The decision is about making a choice between renewal or expiry of a moratorium on customs duty on electronic transmissions.
As the shadow of COVID-19 on the global economy and trade lengthens, international organisations are trying to prioritise their actions in the face of adversity. However, given the international rules-based system governing world trade, there are some matters which are time-critical due to their legal position, necessitating decisions in the near term. One such matter is a pending decision on ‘electronic transmissions’ by the WTO Ministerial Conference, the highest decision-making body of the global trade body. The decision is about making a choice between renewal or expiry of a moratorium on customs duty on electronic transmissions.
It is both ironical and topical that the matter on cross-border traffic in electronic transmissions should come up for a decision in times of social distancing when the whole world is relying upon digital technologies to work from home, access information and interact socially. If the Ministerial Conference, of WTO does meet in Kazakhstan in June 2020 as planned, the positions taken on the moratorium will indeed bear the impressions of the COVID-19 experience.