Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to extend the twenty-year moratorium on the introduction of tariffs for digital trade by six months. They have alleviated fears that people will have to pay duty on ebooks or software.
“Members agreed to maintain the current practice, not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions, until the 12th Ministerial Conference,” the General Council said in a statement. The conference is scheduled to take place in Kazakhstan next June.
The moratorium on digital commerce, whose annual value is estimated at $ 225 billion ($ 5.2 trillion), has been in place since 1998. It was due to expire this month, its renewal requires unanimous consent.
Several countries, including India and South Africa, have expressed an interest in lifting the moratorium. They are developing their digital economies and trying to recover the lost customs revenues caused by the increasingly digital trade. However, some countries warn that this could lead to retaliatory Internet tariffs.
The agreement, known as the WTO moratorium on e-commerce, was concluded in 1998. It played an essential role in the development of the Internet by banning customs duties on digitally delivered products, services, and content. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has warned in recent months that failure to renew the agreement will not only increase tariffs but could also cause confusion in the Internet economy.