By Emma Farge
GENEVA (Reuters) – Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached an interim agreement on Thursday to extend a moratorium on the application of tariffs on electronic transmissions until their next ministerial meeting in 2023, two sources said. of the area involved in the discussions to Reuters.
The prospect of ending the moratorium, which has exempted data flows from international tariffs since 1998, had raised serious concerns among companies. Backed by big players like the US, UK and European Union, they argue that allowing the exemption to expire could jeopardize the global recovery, already threatened by rising prices.
“We agreed to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs tariffs on electronic transmissions until MC13, which is due to take place by December 31, 2023,” the agreement reads, referring to the upcoming ministerial conference.
The document specifies that the moratorium expires in March 2024 in case the next conference is postponed.
The provisional agreement was reached in a negotiating room at the WTO headquarters in Geneva between a group of key members and still needs to be supported by the organization’s 164 members.
India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa threatened to block the extension in advance at the five-day ministerial conference, where agreements are also sought in the areas of fisheries, vaccines and food security. It was not immediately clear what made them change their minds.
(Reporting by Emma Farge)