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Japan, U.S., EU agree to seek WTO talks on e-commerce

Jiji PressWASHINGTON (Jiji Press) — Japanese, U.S. and European Union trade ministers agreed at a meeting Wednesday to seek negotiations at the World Trade Organization to set international e-commerce rules.

Dozens of WTO members including the three economies are expected to announce later this month that they will consider starting the talks.

The three-way meeting in Washington was attended by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the EU’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

According to a joint statement to wrap up the meeting, they “confirmed their support for the timely initiation of WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of” e-commerce in pursuit of “a high standard agreement with the participation of as many WTO members as possible.”

Seko told reporters that he hopes to confirm other WTO members’ “will to initiate the negotiations” during his scheduled attendance at the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum to be held in Davos, Switzerland, for four days from Jan. 22.

He expressed willingness to lead the talks as a minister of Japan, which presides over this year’s Group of 20 meetings including a summit in Osaka in late June.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the ministers particularly discussed concerns with unfair policies and practices in third countries such as China, including forced technology transfer and industrial subsidies.

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