© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ahead of the Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva, Switzerland June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
GENEVA (Reuters) – WTO members reached a tentative agreement on Thursday to extend a moratorium on the application of duties on electronic transmissions until the next ministerial meeting, likely in 2023, two sources told Reuters business involved in the discussions.
The prospect of ending the moratorium, which has exempted data flows from cross-border tariffs since 1998, had raised serious concerns among businesses. Supported by major players like the United States, United Kingdom and European Union, they argued that letting it expire would jeopardize a global recovery already threatened by soaring prices.
“We agree to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC13 which would normally be held before December 31, 2023,” the agreement reads, referring to the upcoming ministerial conference. He clarified that the moratorium would expire in March 2024, if the next conference was postponed.
The tentative deal was struck in a negotiating room at the WTO headquarters in Geneva between a group of major members and has yet to be backed by the body’s 164 members.
India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa had threatened to block an extension earlier at the five-day ministerial conference, where deals are also being sought on fisheries, vaccines and food safety. It was not immediately clear what could have made them change their minds.