Inequality in e-commerce rules puts developing nations at a bigger loss

Fiji lost US$9 million ($F20.7m) of potential tariff revenue in 2020 because of low tariff charges.


Developing nations are at a bigger loss compared with their developed counterparts because of inequality in e-commerce rules.

This was revealed at the Digital Trade Webinar organised by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) recently.

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In her presentation, the Senior Legal Advisor for Third World Network Sanya Reid Smith said that trade rules needed to be reviewed in the region.

“There is a temporary ban on the ability to put customs duty on electronic transmissions, but this is non-enforceable, ” Miss Smith said.

She pointed out that Fiji lost US$9 million ($F20.7m) of potential tariff revenue in 2020 because of low tariff charges.

Supporting Miss Smith’s stance was the Deputy Coordinator for Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) Adam Wolfenden who stressed the disparity between global players in the digital economy.

“The current push to write the rules of digital trade through binding commitments in free trade agreements will further enlarge the inequality that currently exists between developed nations and those that are still developing,” Mr Wolfenden said.

“There are few real benefits that signing up to such rules in a trade deal results in for the Pacific Island countries.

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“They are free to liberalise or regulate such sectors however they see fit but a trade deal locks that in regardless of what happens next.”

He was adamant that how trade deals are reached have more to do with the players’ own interests than in promoting development.

“Securing these rules in a trade deal is more about securing their interests than promoting development.”

“Data needs to be understood as a new natural resource that is produced by all Pacific Islanders and as such the development conversation should revolve around how that natural resource is value added and controlled by Pacific Islanders and not just allowed to flow out of the region,” Mr Wolfenden said.

Meanwhile Ema Ganivatu, a participant on the webinar called on more action to be taken by Pacific Island governments to tackle disparities in e-commerce rules.

“These disparities simply cannot continue to exist. The Fiji government and other Pacific Island countries need to do more to resolve them,” Ms Ganivatu said.

The webinar heard that it will take a considered and well-resourced strategy to address this issue.

This article was first published in Wansolwara and has been republished here with the kind permission of the editor(s).

Contributing Author: Brittany Nawaqatabu is a final-year journalism student at The University of the South Pacific (USP). She is also one of the senior editors for Wansolwara, USP Journalism’s student training newspaper and online publications.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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