Bill Clinton has laid out plans for an unregulated, tax-free Internet for electronic commerce, principles the US government plans to push to other governments.
The 'Framework for Electronic Commerce', published this week, is the result of 18 months of US government research and consultation with academics, businesses and consumer bodies.
So far the European response has been positive but wary, though its reaction will be clearer after Sunday, when a US delegation led by Commerce Department secretary William Daley will present the Framework to European ministers during a three-day conference on Global Information Networks in Bonn.
?A lot of the issues are already being discussed,? a spokesman for the European Commission was reported as saying. "But what exactly is a free trade zone on the Internet and does it take us further than where we are today??
The intention of the plan, according to President Clinton, was to outline the principles the US will follow to accelerate business use of the Internet, and which it will attempt to foist on other governments and international bodies.
The guiding principles of the Framework are that the private sector should drive development, with governments restricting intervention or taxation. Government involvement should centre around a simple legal environment for commerce to take place. Regulations may be needed to ensure fair competition, copyright protection and fraud prevention, but should not detract from the original free nature of its development. Finally, all developments must be consistent with the nature of the Internet as a global marketplace.
?The report also suggests an agenda for international discussions and agreements,? Clinton said.
The subtext of the report shows the US? intention to gain an international lead in this new area of business. Making the Internet a free trade zone - no taxation on products that can be trafficked electronically - was Clinton?s strongest message, a concept that would clearly benefit large US software producers.
Legislation will now be put to Congress on copyright laws, while the principles will be pushed to the World Trade Organisation.
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