Byte - North American Framework for E-Commerce (July 2005)

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A Framework of Common Principles for Electronic Commerce has recently been agreed upon by Canada, Mexico and the United States. The Framework has been created by the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America to further a common goal of fostering and promoting the adoption of Internet-based business solutions by the private sector and to support an open environment for e-commerce.

The Framework recognises that the continued growth of electronic commerce depends on collaboration by governments and the private sector, and is based on a number of general principles to this effect:

  • Governments should establish legal and policy frameworks that provide for similar approaches to domestic policy on electronic commerce and electronic trade facilitation;
  • The need for effective involvement by the private sector in developing and implementing self regulatory measures, such as guidelines and codes of conduct;
  • The need for an environment favourable to e-commerce; and
  • The need for accessible and affordable information infrastructure, including high speed networks.

The Partnership has also committed itself to develop a policy and regulatory environment conducive to the growth of e-commerce in the region. To do this the members of the Partnership will:

  • Implement transparent and non-discriminatory regulatory measures;
  • Ensure there is intergovernmental cooperation to foster an environment of uniform electronic commerce development;
  • Recognise that existing WTO Agreements apply to electronic commerce;
  • Principles such as neutrality, certainty, simplicity, fairness and flexibility embodied in the OECD Ottawa Taxation Framework Conditions (1998) should be applied; and
  • Current WTO practice of not imposing custom duties on electronic transmissions should be made permanent and binding.

Three common principles are at the core of the agreement:

a) Strengthening the Internet as a medium for electronic commerce, including countering illegal spam, and working together to develop and implement common legal approaches to electronic transactions, electronic records and electronic authentication;
b) Building confidence in the online marketplace through privacy and consumer protection measures; and
c) Streamlining consumer and business use of electronic commerce.

A draft implementation plan is annexed to the Framework containing a number of general measures to be completed within a 2 year timeframe. The Framework and draft implementation plan emphasise the need for close policy coordination between the three nations to achieve the general principles set out in the instrument. It is expected, among other things, the Framework will give rise to a draft agreement on the mutual recognition of digital certificates.


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