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WTO Examines e-Commerce

The World Trade Organisation announced Wednesday that it is busy drafting a new set of trade regulations to govern e-commerce.

Last year, the Clinton administration glowingly noted, "we see the seeds of the 22nd-century economy in the explosive growth of the Internet," and suggested that the WTO evolve lenient policies to encourage the growth of the Net. This year, however, it seems that harsher policies and e-taxes are on the agenda.

"E-commerce is such a growing activity that there is a need for a clear-cut framework of rules," said Supachai Panitchpakdi, the WTO's director-general-to-be.

According to Panitchpakdi, the WTO has formulated a working group to re-examine the implications of e-commerce in the face of its exponential growth. A key issue to be dealt with is the taxation of commerce over the Internet.

During the course of 2000, the Clinton Administration announced plans to knock down e-commerce trade barriers and establish a set of international rules that encourage the untrammelled growth of the new medium. It also called upon the WTO to revise its agreements to keep apace with the emergence of new online services, including online auctions, Web-hosting services and remote monitoring.

The new e-rules envisaged by the WTO hardly seem to embrace the e-leniency envisaged by Clinton -- instead it would seem as if the WTO is gearing up for stern directives.

As such, the WTO plans to do away with the current moratorium on taxing trade over the Web and enforce rules that regulate international payment systems and privacy considerations.