The European Union is proposing a comprehensive debate in the World Trade Organisation on removing trade obstacles to ecommerce, the European Commission said.
The EU wants the WTO to establish a set of principles, which would clarify and in some cases revise existing WTO rules, and to do this by December this year.
"This is an area of increasing importance to world trade, with economic predictions suggesting that online and especially Internet trade will continue to grow rapidly, to the benefit of both developed and developing countries," the EU said.
The EU wants the WTO to focus on five main areas, including an agreement that no duties are imposed on the import of online services, the effective protection of individual privacy, and fair competition.
The other two areas are a clarification of which current WTO trade rules will apply to electronic commerce; and a debate on intellectual property, government procurement, trade facilitation, and information technology.
The EU initiative also recognises the need to increase participation of developing countries in ecommerce.
The volume of online trade is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2001.
The EU's initiative follows similar ones from the US, Canada, Australia and Egypt.
Earlier this year, the US proposed that the WTO should issue a statement by May this year, confirming that electronic transmissions will remain free from import duties.
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