London, January 30, 1999
U.S.-U.K. JOINT STATEMENT ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
Electronic commerce will be an engine of economic growth in the Twenty-first
Century, with the potential to invigorate economies by enhancing productivity,
streamlining distribution, facilitating trade and revamping corporate
structures. The United Kingdom
and the United States have already taken steps domestically to realize
the full potential of electronic commerce.
Electronic commerce will enhance the standard of living of citizens in
the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the rest of the globe,
by creating new, high-paying jobs and opportunities. Small and medium-sized
enterprises, in particular, will benefit from new opportunities to sell
their products to a worldwide market.
The Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom recognize the
importance of working together, in the context of the EU-U.S. Joint Statement
of 1997 to promote global electronic commerce and of the G7/G8 Denver
Summit Communique. We support
and endorse the following fundamental principles and policies, which should
guide the development of electronic commerce.
I. General Principles
The private sector should lead in the development of electronic commerce
and in establishing business practices.
Governments should ensure that business enjoys a clear, consistent and
predictable legal environment to enable it to do so, while avoiding unnecessary
regulations or restrictions on electronic commerce.
Governments should encourage the private sector to meet public interest
goals through codes of conduct, model contracts, guidelines, and enforcement
mechanisms developed by the private sector.
Government actions, when needed, should be transparent, minimal, non-discriminatory,
and predictable to the private sector.
Cooperation among all countries, from all regions of the world and all
levels of development, will assist in the construction of a seamless environment
for electronic commerce.
II. Policy Issues
Both governments agree on the strong desirability of continuing the current
practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.
Any taxation of electronic commerce should be clear, consistent, neutral
and non-discriminatory. We
will actively participate within the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) and work toward achieving the application of the
framework principles for the taxation of electronic commerce agreed by
member countries at the Ministerial conference at Ottawa in October 1998.
Close cooperation and mutual assistance between the United Kingdom
and the United States tax authorities is necessary to ensure effective
tax administration and to prevent tax evasion and avoidance.
Electronic Authentication/ Electronic Signatures
Governments should work towards a global approach 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 working together
to promote confidence in the legal enforceability of cross-border transactions
and to support 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 transacting parties
to select appropriate mechanisms which meet their needs for authentication
in conducting electronic commerce, including particular authentication
technologies, contractual arrangements and other means of validating electronic
transactions, and to use judicial and other means of dispute resolution
to prove the validity of those transactions;
c. Permit parties to a transaction
to have the opportunity to prove in court that their authentication technique
and transaction are valid; and,
d. Take a non-discriminatory
approach to electronic signatures and authentication methods from other
There must be effective means of protecting the privacy of individuals'
personal information . It
is vital that these do not inhibit the development of electronic commerce
or impede the free flow of information.
Effective privacy protection can be achieved by private sector
development, implementation and enforcement of privacy policies, including
preparing guidelines and developing verification and recourse methodologies;
the application of existing legal frameworks to the online environment,
or by a combination of both, as
appropriate. The OECD Privacy Guidelines provide an appropriate basis for
The Social and Regional Challenge
As we enter the Information Age, we must ensure that new technologies will
widen the circle of opportunity. Some people are concerned that our societies
will be polarized between information "haves" and "have-nots."
To avoid the creation of a "digital divide" on a social, cultural
or geographic basis, we should promote universal technological literacy
and make information technology widely available at public institutions
such as schools, libraries, and community centers. Governments also have
an important role to play in ensuring universal access to telecommunications
services, particularly for low-income and rural consumers.
Developing countries must be able to participate fully in the information
society. Advanced communications networks can contribute to their integration
in the global economy and facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and
technologies to their citizens and their companies.
Governments should also continue to promote competition in all information
and communications markets since this results in lower prices, more customer
choice, and faster deployment of new technologies.
We encourage developing countries to open their markets to private sector
investments to help modernize their communications infrastructure. The
United Kingdom and the United States are ready to advance international
cooperation to achieve this goal and to avail themselves of international
organizations and financial institutions to further this goal.
Open Access to Information, Cultural Diversity, and Content
The Internet provides unprecedented access to information. For the first
time, a means of communication enables an individual to select what he
or she wishes to view from among millions of pages of information posted
on hundreds of thousands of web sites all around the world. Content that reflects the cultural and linguistic interests
of any group can be produced cheaply and transmitted to others with similar
interests. This information
is posted in many countries and in many languages.
Governments should promote access to this information.
In instances where users do not wish to receive certain types of content,
such as that which is unsuitable for children, filtering systems or other
tools should be made available so that the individual consumer can exercise
his or her choice.
We encourage international cooperation between law enforcement authorities
to prevent, investigate and prosecute illegal activities on the Internet
by criminal and terrorist organizations.
Government Services and Information
Electronic commerce enables governments to provide services to their citizens,
and to make their own purchases, in a more effective and efficient manner.
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 procurement and payments systems.
The United Kingdom and the United States will cooperate in developing
innovative methods for the provision of government services through the
use of electronic commerce.
Effective information security, including the security of transactions
and payments, is essential for the development of electronic commerce,
and should be implemented in a manner consistent with business needs and
public safety. We will continue
to work together on the international and other aspects of this issue,
as outlined in the G7/G8 Denver Communique in relation to cryptography
Information infrastructures are critical to public safety and national
economic well-being. The OECD Guidelines for the Security of Information
Systems should be the basis for national approaches to information security.
Governments should provide advice on threats, vulnerabilities,
and appropriate security responses to ensure that critical information
infrastructures are protected. The
preferred approach is for governments to encourage the awareness, and
take-up, of industry-led best practice approaches on information security
Developments in this area should recognize the importance of private sector
leadership, and should promote both a competitive market for, and user
confidence in electronic payment systems.
Intellectual Property Rights
Growth of electronic commerce depends on the adequate protection of intellectual
property rights including industrial property rights and copyright.
The protection of copyright will be assisted by the prompt signing,
ratification, and implementation of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the
WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
Remediation of the Year 2000 computer data base problem is a matter of
critical importance to both countries and international communities.
The United States and the United Kingdom will work to share their
own experiences regarding key government services by the year 2000.
In addition, the United States and the United Kingdom will work
together and with private sector organizations to stimulate Y2K readiness
in key infrastructure industries and in small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Consumers should receive effective protection in the online environment
that can be promoted through enforcement of existing consumer protection
laws, modification of these laws if necessary to accommodate the unique
characteristics of the online environment, consumer education, and industry
supported mechanisms to empower consumers and resolve consumer complaints
III. Future Work
The UK within the EU and the United States will continue to work together
to support the development of global electronic commerce in the future,
Close policy consultation between the United States and the United Kingdom
to promote electronic commerce;
Continuing substantive bilateral discussions at the experts level on issues
regarding electronic commerce;
Encouraging private sector leadership through dialogue and cooperation
between the private sectors of both countries and our governments.