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
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
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.
� 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
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
� 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
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
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.
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
� 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.
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
� 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
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
example, the WTO, WIPO, OECD, UNCITRAL, UNCTAD, and APEC.
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.