75 countries launch WTO talks toward global e-commerce rules

Cecilia Malmstrom, EU’s top trade official, in a statement noted the need to ‘provide a predictable, effective and safe online environment for trade.’ (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2019

75 countries launch WTO talks toward global e-commerce rules

  • The talks are to include the US and China, the world’s biggest economies

DAVOS, Switzerland: Ministers from 75 countries launched talks toward drawing up global e-commerce rules amid growing calls for technology to be more closely regulated internationally.

The talks were announced by the EU’s top trade official, Cecilia Malmstrom, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and are to include the US and China, the world’s biggest economies.

The launch of the negotiations at the World Trade Organization is a rare win for international cooperation, with Beijing and Washington locked in a trade war and repeated threats to multilateralism by US President Donald Trump.

Trump has specifically blasted the WTO for slighting US trade interests to the benefit of China.

Malmstrom in a tweet hailed a “historical morning in Davos” that showed that the WTO “can take on challenges of the 21st century.”

“Electronic commerce is a reality in most corners of the world, so we owe it to our citizens and companies to provide a predictable, effective and safe online environment for trade,” Malmstrom said.

The talks will formally begin in March and will seek to achieve an internationally-agreed framework “to make it easier and safer to buy, sell and do business online,” the statement said.

“The launch of these negotiations shows the WTO stays in the center of international rule making,” it added.

The talks follow an address on Wednesday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called on multilateral bodies — such as the WTO — to gain oversight of the digital world.


Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

  • Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations, the so-called OPEC+ group, would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

He also said Saudi Arabia and Russia would continue to engage regarding oil policy.

“Everything serious requires being attended to,” the minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, told reporters at an industry conference in Riyadh.

An OPEC+ committee this month recommended the group deepen its output cuts by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter.

The minister said he was still talking with Moscow and that he was confident of Riyadh’s partnership with the rest of the OPEC+ group.

“We did not run out of ideas, we have not closed our phones. There is always a good way of communicating through conference calls,” he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, which has impacted OPEC member Iran, he said OPEC+ members should not be complacent about the virus but added he was confident every OPEC+ member was a responsible and responsive producer.

The flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus, which first broke out in China, has now spread to more than 20 countries.

“Of course there is an impact and we are assessing, but we’ll do whatever we can in our next meeting and we’ll address that issue,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said at the same industry conference.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Monday said he expected a short-lived impact on oil demand.

“We think this is short term and I am confident that in the second half of the year there is going to be an improvement on the demand side, especially from China,” he said.

Oil climbed on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4 percent in the previous session, although concerns about the global spread of the virus capped gains.