The United States was pleased to help secure and join the consensus – ahead of MC13 – on a decision important to LDCs and graduating LDCs. That’s an important achievement that we need to recognize.
We all have a stake in outcomes that will benefit our people today and tomorrow. We can deliver for our middle classes together, rather than pitting them against each other.
In so doing, we are aware that not all developing countries face the same challenges or compete on equal terms: some are highly competitive in some sectors, while others continue to struggle to gain a foothold in external markets.
We cannot have economic and manufacturing powerhouses gaming the system by claiming the same development status and flexibilities intended for less advantaged Members.
What we can do is problem-solve together by working to understand the specific needs and challenges of individual Members and determine specific bespoke strategies to assist each Member in meeting their development needs and securing the benefits of implementing the agreements.
The United States has put on an extensive amount of programming to support experience sharing, focus on solutions, and deliver effective capacity building, and we will continue to do so.
As a key part of this approach – and in answer to the question – we have worked to bring a development focus to discussions across committees and to bring technical expertise from other committees to the Committee on Trade and Development, so that there is a good cross-fertilization of ideas.
The e-commerce work program is a good example of this. The United States, along with other Members, invested this year in a series of robust discussions on the scope and impact of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions as well as the development angles and digital trade facilitation issues.
In those discussions, we have heard from developing countries that are shifting toward more services-based economies and are leading the way in services-driven transformation. We know that many small businesses in developing economies – and globally – rely on digitally-delivered services for their operations.
Thus, the moratorium seems especially pertinent to developing and LDC members, and we note arguments some have made for considering its relevance to women participating in those economies.
Furthering predictability and confidence in the digital environment, by extending the moratorium, can be a concrete step that WTO Members take to foster robust digital economic activity and support digital inclusion that encompasses the developing world.
Regarding the question about revenue foregone, some studies have noted that a reduction in digital trade would result in a more significant economic loss than potential foregone customs revenue. A report from the IMF notes other methods of revenue collection resulting from digital trade that merit consideration and more discussion.
Digital economy and trade issues are highly relevant and evolving at the moment. We believe it is vitally important to continue the e-commerce work program and maintain the moratorium for now in order to provide space for robust exploration within the work program. The WTO is an appropriate venue for these discussions and we need to continue to draw attention to the development dimension of these issues.