Computer & Communication Industry Association
PublishedFebruary 6, 2024

House Ways & Means Committee to Discuss How U.S. Can Assert Its Leadership at the Upcoming WTO Ministerial By Prohibiting New Digital Tariffs 

Washington — The U.S. House Ways & Means Trade Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday regarding “Advancing America’s Interests at the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Meeting.” The Computer & Communications Industry Association looks forward to hearing perspectives on how the United States can secure outcomes at MC13 that will further U.S. economic interests, including through the renewal of the e-commerce moratorium that has been key to the deployment of digital services around the world.

Since 1998, WTO members have maintained a prohibition on imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions—one of the earliest efforts to apply foundational trade rules to the global digital ecosystem. Commonly referred to as the e-commerce moratorium, this commitment, originally championed by the United States, has consistently received vast support from like-minded trade partners. Research shows it has benefited industries of all sizes including SMEs. Imposing duties on cross-border transmissions would depart from longstanding trade practice of non-discrimination, and fundamentally alter the internet as an open system for commerce and communication. 

Last week, CCIA joined over 170 global business organizations in calling for the moratorium extension.  This hearing comes at a critical time ahead of the WTO Ministerial, as the direction of U.S. trade policy, and U.S. commitment to working with trade partners to maintain open markets, remains uncertain. 

The following can be attributed to CCIA Vice President for Digital Trade Jonathan McHale: 

“CCIA has been steadfast in supporting  U.S. trade officials’ efforts to make open, rules-based trade a top global economic priority. As the Biden Administration prepares to strengthen relations with allies to address trade challenges at the upcoming Ministerial, we applaud efforts in Congress to facilitate discussions that emphasize the importance of strong digital rules to achieve these goals.

“USTR’s recent retreat from leadership on digital trade rules, combined with the clear lack of interest in standing up for a core comparative advantage in export strength, calls into question the direction of the Administration’s approach to trade.  The United States must not waver in . its support of the moratorium.  To do so could facilitate its expiration, and would mark an avoidable step that would further undermine U.S. interests and exacerbate the incoherence of current U.S. policy.  

“We encourage the WTO members, with U.S. leadership, to stay the course and renew the e-commerce moratorium at MC13, and continue efforts to secure robust rules in the broader e-commerce work program.  We also look forward to upcoming oversight hearings for further discussions on critical  issues of U.S. trade leadership.” 

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