Compilation of Weekly Presidential Documents - Monday, December 7, 1998 Volume 34, Issue 49; ISSN: 0511-4187 Joint statement from Australia and the United States on electronic commerce

Monday, December 7, 1998


Volume 34, Issue 49; ISSN: 0511-4187


Joint statement from Australia and the United States on electronic commerce



� Joint Statement From Australia and the United States on Electronic




� November 30,1998



� Australia and the United States believe that the growth of the

information economy is a significant and positive development for

both countries and, generally, for society and global business. The

benefits of e-commerce, in particular, include access to new

markets, quality of service, encouragement of innovation, more

efficient management of supply and distribution and better customer

service. These benefits should accelerate economic growth in all

sectors, and across all regions and communities.



� I. Purpose of Statement



� This joint statement is being made in order to accelerate the

development of e-commerce in both countries and empowerment of

individual citizens by: providing certainty and building confidence

for government, business and consumers in key areas of ecommerce;

facilitating progress in key areas, particularly a transparent and

consistent legal framework; promoting a dialogue between Australia

and the US on e-commerce issues which will benefit government,

business and consumers.



� IL Policy Principles



� The growth of electronic commerce will be led by the private

sector, and its continued development depends on leadership by the

private sector in key areas both domestically and internationally.



� Competitive market-based solutions to specific issues for the

information economy will promote optimal growth and benefits.

Governments should avoid imposing unnecessary regulations. When

regulation is necessary, they should rely on a "light touch"

regulatory environment. Where the market alone will not solve

problems, self-regulation gives maximum control and responsibility

to the individual and should be the preferred approach. In some

cases this may need to be facilitated by legislation to ensure

effective arrangements. In light of the global nature of e-commerce,

government-based or industry-based approaches should be coordinated

and harmonized domestically and internationally, as far as possible.

Government should actively pursue excellence in the online delivery

of government services and in its dealings with business. IlI.

Policy Issues



� Australia and the United States agree on the following approaches

to key areas of electronic commerce and the information economy:



� 1. Taxes and Tariffs



� Rules for the taxation of the Internet and electronic commerce

should be neutral, effcient, simple to understand and should promote

certainty. Governments will cooperate closely to ensure effective

and fair administration of their tax systems in relation to

electronic commerce, including prevention of tax evasion and

avoidance. In support of this the Australian and US national tax

authorities should continue to consult and cooperate on the taxation

issues associated with electronic commerce in international fora,

such as the OECD and other bodies, and at a bilateral level in

accordance with the exchange of information provisions of the 1982

AustraliaUS Double Tax Convention.



� Australia and the US support the indefinite extension of the WTO

declaration of May 1998 not to impose customs duties on electronic




� 2. Developments in International Fora



� A. World Trade Organization (WTO): The international trading system

under the WTO should foster the growth of electronic commerce by

reducing the scope for trade-distorting government intervention and

to give enterprises greater access to the global marketplace.

Australia and the United States are actively participating in the

WTO work program on e-commerce, with the shared objective of

undertaking a comprehensive review of the implications of e-commerce

for the application of WTO agreements and for mandated negotiations,

taking into account the application of the established body of trade

rules to electronic commerce and the importance of further expanding

market access and trade liberalization commitments within the WTO

framework. The program should also consider the potential

contribution of e-commerce to development objectives, and means to

promote greater access for enterprises in developing countries to

the global digital network. The General Council should continue to

coordinate the work program, avoiding duplication with work done

elsewhere, focussing on workable outcomes, and keeping open the

possibility of adding new issues to the work program.



� B. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): Both governments

welcome the ongoing e-commerce work program in a range of APEC

sub-fora, including agreement to the key themes and future work

program outlined in the APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic




� 3. Business and Consumer Confidence It is essential that business

and consumers have confidence in transactions conducted

electronically. This will be facilitated by action in the following




� A. Electronic Authentication: Governments should work towards a

global framework that supports, domestically and internationally,

the recognition and enforcement of electronic transactions and

electronic authentication methods (including electronic signatures).

At an international level this should include exploring the

possibility of a convention or other arrangements to achieve a

common legal approach that will support electronic transactions as

well as a variety of authentication technologies and implementation

models. This approach should:



� a. Remove paper-based obstacles to electronic transactions by

adopting relevant provisions from the UNCITRAL Model Law on

Electronic Commerce; b. Permit parties to a transaction to determine

the appropriate authentication technologies and implementation

models for their transaction, with assurance that, to the maximum

extent possible, those technologies and implementation models will

be recognized and enforced; c. Permit parties to a transaction to

have the opportunity to prove in court that their authentication

technique and their transaction is valid;



� d. Take a non-discriminatory approach to electronic signatures and

authentication methods from other countries.



� B. Privacy: Ensuring the effective protection of privacy with

regard to the processing of personal data on global information

networks is necessary as is the need to continue the free flow of

information. With regard to frameworks for personal data protection,

governments and businesses should consider consumers' concern about

their personal information. Governments should support industry in

implementing effective privacy protection. Personal information

should be collected and handled in a fair and reasonable manner

consistent with generally accepted privacy principles. The OECD

Privacy Guidelines provide an appropriate basis for policy




� C. Critical Infrastructures: Protection of information, as well as

the information systems and infrastructures themselves, is a key

element in building user confidence. In some cases information

infrastructures are critical to public safety and national economic

wellbeing. The preferred approach to information security is through

industry awareness and industry based solutions. The OECD Guidelines

for the Security of Information Systems should be the basis for

national approaches to information security. Governments should

provide leadership and provide advice on threats, vulnerabilities

and security responses to ensure that critical information

infrastructures are protected.



� D. Consumer Protection: Consumers should receive effective

protection in the online environment which can be promoted through

enforcement of existing consumer protection laws, modification of

these laws as necessary to accommodate the unique characteristics of

the online market, consumer education, and industry supported

mechanisms to empower consumers, and resolve consumer complaints and




� 4. Content



� The Internet is a medium for promoting, in a positive way,

diffusion of knowledge, cultural diversity and social interaction,

as well as a means of facilitating commerce. Governments should not

prevent their citizens from accessing information simply because it

is published online in another country. Empowerment of users,

including parents in relation to material which may be unsuitable

for children, should be achieved through information and education,

as well as through the availability of filtering/blocking systems or

other tools. Industry self-regulation will assist in the promotion

of content labeling. Industry will need to deal appropriately with

complaints about prohibited content. We encourage international

cooperation between law enforcement authorities to prevent,

investigate and prosecute illegal activities on the Internet and the

illegal use of e-commerce by criminal and terrorist organizations.



� 5. Government Services and Information Good administration is

promoted by governments ensuring that they pursue excellence in

delivery of government services and information online in a

citizen-friendly way rather than reflecting bureaucratic structures.

Governments can also contribute to the development of the

information economy by acting as role models and market catalysts.

Business and user confidence will be enhanced by effective

government use of electronic payments systems.



� Government led developments in public key and other authentication

technologies should be encouraged to facilitate trade through the

use of secure electronic exchange of permits and licenses.



� Both countries recognize the value of, and will continue to

support, international cooperation in electronic delivery of

government services through bodies such as the International Council

for Information Technology in Government Administration, and through

collaborative work such as the G7 Government Online Project.



� Governments consider the remediation of the Year 2000 computer date

problem as a matter of critical importance to both countries and

international communities. The exchange of appropriate information

and expertise would provide significant assistance in addressing

this issue.



� 6. Domain Name System (DNS)



� Both countries agree on the following guiding principles:



� Stability: The US Government should end its role in the Internet

name and numbering system in a manner that ensures the stability of

the Internet. The introduction of a new management system should not

disrupt current operations or create competing root systems. During

the transition and thereafter, the stability of the Internet should

be the first priority of any DNS management system. Security and

reliability of the DNS are important aspects of stability, and as a

new DNS management system is introduced, a comprehensive security

strategy should be developed with input from the private sector.



� Competition: The Internet succeeds in great measure because it is a

decentralized system that encourages innovation and maximizes

individual freedom. Where possible, market mechanisms that support

competition and consumer choice should drive the management of the

Internet because they will lower costs, promote innovation,

encourage diversity, and enhance user choice and satisfaction.



� Coordination: Certain management functions require coordination. In

these cases, responsible industry self-regulation is preferable to

government control and is likely to be more flexible and responsive

to the changing needs of the Internet and of Internet users. The

self-regulatory process should, as far as possible, reflect the

bottom-up governance that has characterized development of the

Internet in this area to date.



� Representation: Private sector mechanisms should be developed to

ensure that domain name system management is responsive to Internet

stakeholders worldwide.



� 7. Intellectual Property Rights Adequate protection of intellectual

property rights on a technology-neutral basis is essential for the

development of e-commerce. The new WIPO Copyright Treaty and the

Performances and Phonograms Treaty provide a sound basis in this

regard. Further consideration of implementation of the measures in

the treaties will be a positive step.



� 8. Infrastructure



� The supporting infrastructure for online transactions must be

technically and commercially suitable, particularly in terms of

adequate bandwidth and competitive pricing. The optimal outcome will

be achieved through competitive provision of infrastructure and

telecommunication services within a pro-competitive regulatory




� IV. Work Program



� Recognizing that bilateral cooperation can complement the

development of essential multilateral frameworks, Australia and the

United States will:



� Work with the private sector and consumer groups in both countries

to promote dialogue and cooperation on the issues contained in this

statement, and facilitate the translation of such dialogue and

cooperation into meaningful international frameworks.



� Cooperate closely in relevant international fora to support the

growth of and access to global e-commerce; these may include, for




� Actively promote exchange of information and views at government

level on all relevant e-commerce issues. This could include economic

and trade issues such as how e-commerce affects small and medium

sized enterprises, including their ability to develop markets and

generate employment; and the broader economic and social impacts of




� Work to ensure that the benefits of such exchanges are shared more

broadly, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.



� NOTE: An original was not available for verification of the content

of this joint statement.



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