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Issues: U.S. Views on Electronic Commerce

At the U.S.-EU Summit on December 5, 1997, U.S. and European officials reached agreement on a joint statement about global electronic commerce. The United States believes the statement reflects the emergence of a global consensus around many of the principles and positions advocated by the U.S. government. U.S. officials hope that having the example of the U.S.-EU joint statement will further encourage other governments with an interest in global electronic commerce to support U.S. views in multilateral and bilateral fora.

Commerce on the Internet is projected to exceed tens of billions of dollars by the turn of the century. It promises new opportunities for business and citizens throughout the world. Electronic commerce will mean lower costs and wider access for businesses, more choice for consumers, and most importantly, new jobs.

The United States is strongly committed to an industry-led, market-driven approach to the development of electronic commerce. The role of government should be to promote a simple, predictable, safe and pro-competitive environment in which electronic commerce can flourish to the benefit of consumers and industry alike.

The United States is pleased to have joined with the European Union in calling for an open dialogue between governments and the private sector in an effort to develop a coherent, coordinated approach that takes into account all interests.

The United States and the European Union agree that the flow of commerce on the Internet should remain free of customs duties, as it is now, and will seek a formal commitment from other trading partners to keep it so. This is an important step forward in moving toward President Clinton's goal of a tariff-free Internet.

The joint statement contains several key guidelines for the development of electronic commerce.

(i) Competition and consumer choice - not government regulation - will drive economic activity.

(ii) The market and private initiative will lead the expansion of electronic commerce.

(iii) Governments should eliminate existing legal and regulatory barriers to electronic commerce and prevent the emergence of new ones.

(iv) Private sector self-regulation is important and endorsed.

(v) Taxation should be technology neutral and nondiscriminatory.

(vi) Voluntary, consensus-based standards will promote interoperability, innovation and competition.

The United States also articulated a work program for the future. With active participation from private sectors, the United States will proceed with the specific objectives outlined in the joint statement in order to help accelerate the growth of this important new sector.

The United States believes that the principles and positions outlined in cooperation with the European Union will help to create a framework that fosters electronic commerce.

The text of this U.S.-EU statement is available via the Internet at