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WTO provisionally agrees to extend e-commerce tariff moratorium - sources

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva

GENEVA (Reuters) -WTO members reached a provisional deal on Thursday to extend a moratorium on applying duties to electronic transmissions until the next ministerial meeting, likely to be in 2023, two trade sources involved in the discussions told Reuters.

The prospect of ending the moratorium, which has exempted data flows from cross-border tariffs since 1998, had raised major concerns among businesses. Backed by major players like the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, they argued that letting it expire would undermine a global recovery already threatened by spiralling prices.

"We agree to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC13 which should ordinarily be held by 31 December 2023," the agreement showed, referring to the next ministerial conference. It specified that the moratorium would expire in March 2024, should the next conference be postponed.

The provisional deal was reached in a negotiating room of the WTO's Geneva headquarters between a group of major members and still needs to be backed by the body's 164 members.

India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa had threatened to block an extension earlier in the five-day ministerial conference, where deals are also being sought on fishing, vaccines and food security. It was not immediately clear what might have made them change their minds.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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