Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft


3 February 1999 Source:

USIS Washington File _________________________________

03 February 1999


(E-Commerce seen as 21st century economic engine) (1720)

Washington -- The United States and United Kingdom regard electronic commerce as a vital engine of economic growth in the 21st century with powers to enhance productivity, streamline distribution, expand trade and revamp corporate structures, according to a joint statement.

Vice President Al Gore and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said January 30 in London that electronic commerce will raise the standards of living in the United States and United Kingdom as well as the rest of the world by creating higher paying jobs and new opportunities. A text of the U.S.-U.K. joint statement was made available in Washington.

Electronic commerce -- known less formally as e-commerce -- has grown in recent years as businesses and industries have learned how to market goods and services through online catalogs, advertising, and direct marketing worldwide on the Internet. As a consequence of the growth of e-commerce, a host of issues ranging from taxation to privacy have emerged that governments have had to begin addressing.

Following is the text of the joint U.S.-U.K. statement:

(begin text)


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 countries.


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 policy development.