E-Commerce Regulation Needs Harmonisation, Labour Rules Should Be Part Of Trade Laws, Panellists Say 04/10/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)As electronic commerce is on the rise, attempts to regulate it are fragmented and in need of harmonisation, according to a panel at the recent World Trade Organization Public Forum. Intellectual property could be a harmonisation tool and is a market maker, one of the panellists said. Separately, a session looked at the relationship that they said should exist between trade and labour rights, and said the way goods are produced should be taken into account in WTO rules. The 28 September session on intellectual property and e-commerce was organised by the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) and took place during the WTO Public Forum held from 26-28 September. AIPPI panel on IP and e-commerce In the session, Luca Rinaldi, partner at Gianni, Origoni, Grippo, Cappelli & Partners, and member of the AIPPI Standing Committee on TRIPS [WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights], said a number of international organisations have developed guidelines and programmes concerning e-commerce. He cited for example the 1998 WTO Work Programme on Electronic Commerce; the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Electronic Commerce [pdf]; the 2005 UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts; and the United Nations Guidelines on Consumer Protection (1985/2015). At the European level, he mentioned the 2000 directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (so-called the Directive on electronic commerce); the 2004 directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights; and the 2014 Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market. He noted efforts made in Asia and in Africa with the Economic Community of West African States’ Supplementary Act on personal data protection and e-transactions; the 2014 African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection. However, regulation is still fragmented, he said. IP-Rights Market Maker Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), said the worth of e-commerce is about US$3 trillion per year, and small and medium-sized enterprises have a much better chance of exporting their products if they are online. That goes both for goods and services, he added. The prediction now is e-commerce will be the normal way of conducting trade in the future, according to Lee-Makiyama. If intellectual property rights are sometime considered as a market entry barrier, in access to medicines for example, in copyright and trademarks, mostly used in e-commerce, IP is a market maker, he said. Without IP rights, “supply is not there,” he said, adding that it is the legal environment that allows products to exist. Among issues to be tackled is data ownership, and in particular user-generated data, and user data, such as personal information, he said. Trade and SDGs, Where Are Labour Rights? In a separate panel on 28 September, The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) organised a session on how trade relationship could be guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, and in particular SDG8 (Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all). The WTO is located in a building which used to host the International Labour Organization (ILO), and which still bears many vestiges of that era [pdf]. The entrance is flanked by two statues, one representing the goddess of peace, the other one the goddess of justice. Many walls are adorned with representation of labour scenes, such as “the dignity of labour.” However, WTO rules do not include any reference to labour conditions, according to the panellists. Maria Panezi, post-doctoral fellow at CIGI, remarked that there seems to be a universal acceptance of labour rights under the ILO and they are not discussed under the WTO umbrella. Markus Gehring, senior fellow at CIGI, joined through teleconference and said there is a need to review the SDGs very carefully, as they constitute the new global consensus of what sustainable development actually means, and “gives colour and shading” to the interpretation of the WTO objective and rules. For example, SDG12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) challenges the prohibition to use process and production methods to differentiate products, he said. More and more consumers will want to know how products are actually produced, he said. Grant Belchamber, Consultant, formerly economist and international officer at the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), speaking in his personal capacity, said the emergence of the digital age and digital platforms has extended a deregulatory push and undermines labour rights. It is necessary to look at which guidance the SDGs can provide in the relationship between work and trade, he said. If it is true that trade is good, it should be possible to include labour criteria in trade to make it fairer as well, preventing child or forced labour, for example, he added. Such criteria could encourage minimum wages, and safety standards in developing countries, promote collective bargaining, and protect union rights, he said. Image Credits: Catherine Saez, CIGI Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."E-Commerce Regulation Needs Harmonisation, Labour Rules Should Be Part Of Trade Laws, Panellists Say" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.