Australia-Canada Joint Statement on Global Electronic Commerce
The Government of Australia and the Government of Canada attach great importance to the development of an information economy and society, and they recognize the importance of working together, both bilaterally and through multilateral efforts, to maximize its benefits. Electronic commerce, in particular, will be one of the major driving forces of the 21st century, enhancing productivity and innovation; creating jobs and new markets; improving the quality of services; and offering consumers greater choice.
Electronic commerce is inherently global in nature. Governments recognize that whether action is domestic or regional, private or public sector—all electronic commerce policies and activities will have limited impact unless they facilitate a global approach. Canada and Australia also recognize the importance of a broad, concerted approach by governments, the private sector, the wider community, and international organizations to facilitate the growth of global electronic commerce and maximize its social and economic potential.
This joint statement is intended to promote the development of electronic commerce issues in both countries by:
- supporting and endorsing a shared vision and policy principles for the global environment which facilitates the growth of electronic commerce;
- committing to an action agenda of ongoing dialogue and consultations between Canada and Australia with governments, businesses, and consumers in key areas of electronic commerce.
Shared Vision For Global Electronic Commerce
Australia and Canada will work together and through international organizations to develop a global environment which facilitates the growth of global electronic commerce by:
- Building trust for users and consumers—ensuring that frameworks and safeguards provide confidence in the digital marketplace by addressing such issues as privacy, security, and consumer protection.
- Establishing transparent, objective ground rules for the digital marketplace—ensuring that existing legal and commercial frameworks apply to electronic transmissions and that any new rules or changes to existing rules for business transactions should take into account the growth potential of electronic commerce and not impede its expansion.
- Enhancing the information infrastructure—striving to ensure effective access and sustained, long term trend towards low costs and high quality information infrastructures and services for e-commerce by means of effective competition in public telecommunications transport networks and services.
- Maximizing the benefits—addressing the needs of business, including small and medium-sized enterprises, organizations, and consumers in developing and developed countries
- Ensuring global participation—developing a broad collaborative approach that includes governments, the private sector, the wider community, and international organizations which aims at maximizing the social and economic potential of electronic commerce across all economies and societies.
Canada and Australia assert that:
- The private sector should lead in stimulating the growth of electronic commerce through investment and innovation in products and services. It also has a key role, in partnership with governments and the wider community, to ensure that domestic and international business practices facilitate trust and consumer confidence.
- In meeting the public interest, it is the primary role of governments to create a favourable environment for global electronic commerce and to maximize its potential for social, civic and community development in a manner which:
- optimizes private sector innovation and initiative in a competitive environment;
- minimizes legal and regulatory barriers to electronic trade, and avoids the emergence of new ones while recognizing the right of governments to pursue public policy objectives.
- provides confidence in the instruments and networks of electronic commerce through appropriate government action and use of policy tools (i.e., legislation, regulation, and self-regulation) which are clear, transparent, and predictable.
- takes account of the needs and interests of the wider community through consultation with representative groups.
- Governments also have a key role to play in the growth of electronic commerce acting as a 'model user' and market catalyst for the information economy. Governments can both enhance business and user confidence, and improve administration by pursuing excellence in the online delivery of government services and information using electronic payment systems and public key infrastructure and other authentication technologies.
- International cooperation and harmonization among all countries, from all regions of the world and all levels of development, will assist in the construction of a seamless global environment for electronic commerce and extend its benefits to all.
Recognizing that bilateral cooperation can complement and advance the development of essential multilateral frameworks, Australia and Canada will:
1. Multilateral Action
Continue to cooperate closely in relevant international fora to support the broad international growth of and access to global electronic commerce and its benefits. In particular, bilateral discussions will be undertaken to advance multilateral efforts in:
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Both governments welcome the continuing work on electronic commerce in a range of APEC fora, support implementation of the APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic Commerce, and cooperate in the work of the Electronic Authentication Task Group.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Both countries welcome the success of the Ottawa OECD Ministerial Conference, which in October 1998 articulated a common vision for global electronic commerce shared among governments, the private sector, labour, consumer and social interest groups, and international organizations and clarified the measures needed to realize its social and economic potential. The agreements reached in such key policy areas as privacy, taxation, authentication and consumer protection provide a valuable foundation for further work at the OECD and other international fora. Canada and Australia will continue to collaborate to establish frameworks in the OECD on tax, consumer and privacy issues and to continue the open dialogue on global electronic authentication mechanisms.
World Customs Organization (WCO)
Both governments welcome and support the WCO's electronic commerce work program and its efforts to modernize customs procedures on a global basis. Australian and Canadian customs organizations will continue to play a significant role in fostering developments at the WCO aimed at facilitating world trade by harmonizing and simplifying customs electronic service delivery processes and systems. Both governments also support and will work to advance the WCO's efforts with United Nations bodies that set international standards for customs and industry electronic messages.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Both governments welcome and support WIPO's electronic commerce work program. The wide-ranging set of activities underway in WIPO should facilitate trans-national electronic commerce, and lower its cost structure by further advances in the electronic delivery of its services with respect to intellectual property and through greater harmonization of intellectual property systems. Australia and Canada further agree that the elements in the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty which address uses of protected works in the networked environment provide a useful basis for enhancing the level of protection for certain elements of copyright in electronic commerce.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
Canada and Australia agree that the existing body of trade rules applies to electronic commerce, and they believe that future work within existing bodies should consider the impact of electronic commerce within each subject area. Canada and Australia agree that global electronic commerce is inherently liberalizing, and look forward to future dialogue on what is needed to enable its growth, reduce impediments to trade, and realize the potential contribution of electronic commerce for all WTO members. Both countries note the opportunities that electronic commerce presents for development objectives and greater access for enterprises in developing countries to the global digital network. Canada and Australia support further work on electronic commerce issues at the WTO through an appropriate non negotiating forum. Australia and Canada reaffirm the declaration by WTO Members in May 1998 to continue the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)
Australia and Canada will continue their active participation in the UNCITRAL Working Group on Electronic Commerce to encourage the harmonization of domestic laws relating to authentication procedures and to facilitate the cross border recognition of electronic transactions.
2. Bilateral Action
Actively promote exchange of information and views and cooperation between the governments of Canada and Australia, with the participation of the private sector and the wider community in both countries in undertaking action on the issues contained in this statement. Canadian and Australian representatives will meet regularly in conjunction with existing international meetings to further this agenda and facilitate the translation of this cooperation into meaningful international frameworks. Key priorities for joint work over the next year include:
Ensuring that rules for taxation are neutral, transparent, efficient and technologically neutral
Canada and Australia, through their national tax authorities, will consult and cooperate on electronic commerce taxation issues, including the prevention of tax evasion and avoidance, to ensure the effective and fair administration of their tax systems. They will also work together in international fora such as the OECD, to promote internationally compatible approaches to taxation issues raised by electronic commerce.
Canadian and Australian partners will explore the issues around building a global framework that supports, domestically and internationally, the recognition and legal standing of electronic transactions and authentication methods in a competitive market. Together, Canadian and Australian representatives will:
- explore arrangements to achieve a common framework and approach which would promote electronic transactions across borders that support a variety of authentication technologies;
- promote government public key infrastructure policy harmonization, technical interoperability, and pilot projects (e.g. secure messaging project).
- examine the actions necessary to remove paper-based obstacles to electronic transactions;
- work to establish a framework for accreditation of certification authorities and explore ways to eliminate barriers to recognition arrangements among certification services providers and the authentication certificates they issue;
- explore ways to establish chains of trust amongst accredited certification authorities.
Consumers who participate in electronic commerce should be afforded transparent and effective consumer protection that is not less than the level of protection afforded in other forms of commerce. Representatives of Canada and Australia will:
- exchange information on national approaches, consumer concerns and private sector mechanisms;
- explore efficient means to enforce existing consumer protection laws, modify laws as necessary to accommodate the unique characteristics of the online market, and share views to advance the development of a global approach;
- examine means to empower and educate consumers and to resolve consumer complaints and concerns through, for example, consistent standards and mutual recognition for merchant certification and on-line dispute settlement mechanisms;
- examine the possibility of negotiating a bilateral agreement on consumer protection in electronic commerce.
Ensuring effective protection with regard to the processing of personal data on global information networks begins with domestic regimes for the protection of privacy and personal information. Canada and Australia have committed domestically to a 'light' legislative regime, based on standards developed from the OECD Privacy Guidelines, in an effort to augment self-regulatory efforts, such as voluntary codes, with independent oversight and legal redress for consumers. Canada and Australia agree to conclude agreements on the harmonization of their respective legislative frameworks as those frameworks proceed.
Illegal and Harmful Content
Canada and Australia will support approaches to industry self-regulation that assist in promoting the use of content labelling, filtering and blocking systems, in appropriate circumstances, such as where content is unsuitable for children, while recognizing the important role of information and education in helping users deal with these issues. Industry should be encouraged to establish appropriate procedures to deal with complaints about illegal and harmful content. Canada and Australia recognize that service providers will cooperate, to the extent permissible under domestic law, with domestic law enforcement authorities as well as their international counterparts to stem the transmission of illegal content. Canada and Australia will encourage international cooperation between law enforcement agencies to prevent, investigate and prosecute illegal activities on the Internet and the use of electronic commerce for criminal purposes.
Canada and Australia will work together to ensure effective global management of the Internet in a manner that supports competition and consumer choice. They will participate in the ongoing development of the Internet core technical management functions including the work of ICANN, and of registries for Country Code Top Level Domain Names (ccTLD).
Canada and Australia will continue their dialogue on measures to ensure the protection of the infrastructures upon which electronic commerce relies, including the exchange of relevant information. Both countries recognize that the OECD Guidelines for the Security of Information Systems provide a basis for protective security arrangements.
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