AUSTRALIA-JAPAN JOINT STATEMENT ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
6 July 1999
The Government of Australia and the Government of Japan accept that the growth of the information economy is a significant development in global economic relations and benefits both countries, especially in the conduct of international business. Electronic commerce, in particular, allows access to new markets, improves the quality of services, encourages innovation, and fosters more efficient supply and distribution. These benefits should accelerate economic growth around the world.
This joint statement is intended to promote the development of electronic commerce in both countries by:
- building certainty and confidence with governments, businesses and consumers in key areas of electronic commerce;
- facilitating the consideration and adoption of a clear and consistent legal framework;
- promoting a dialogue between Australia and Japan on electronic commerce issues;
- supporting and endorsing the following principles and policies, which should guide the development of electronic commerce.
II. POLICY PRINCIPLES
1. The private sector should lead in the development of electronic commerce and in establishing business practices, both domestically and internationally.
2. Governments should create a favourable environment which maximises private sector initiatives and fosters open competition in electronic commerce. They should avoid the imposition of unnecessary regulations or restrictions on electronic commerce. They should also avoid imposing unnecessary, restrictive or regulative measures on international trade transacted electronically. Government actions, when needed, should be clear, transparent, and predictable to the private sector.
3. Legislation may be needed to facilitate the efficient self-regulation of electronic commerce.(strikethrough: )
However, governments should also encourage effective self-regulation through codes of conduct, model contracts, guidelines, and enforcement mechanisms developed by the private sector.
4. Cooperation and harmonisation 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.
5. Governments should contribute to reducing the cost of administrative services and raising convenience for their citizens by facilitating the use of information technology. They also have an important role in facilitating progress towards the information society and information economy. Governments should endeavour to deliver a high standard of online services for the full benefit of every citizen.
III. POLICY APPROACHES
The Governments of Australia and Japan will adopt the following approaches to key areas of electronic commerce and the information economy:
1. Taxes and Tariffs
A. Rules affecting the taxation of the Internet and electronic commerce should be neutral, efficient, simple to understand, and should promote certainty. The Governments of Australia and Japan will cooperate closely to ensure the effective and fair administration of their tax systems in relation to electronic commerce, including prevention of tax evasion and avoidance. In support of this the Australian and Japanese national tax authorities should continue to consult and cooperate on taxation issues associated with electronic commerce:
a. within international fora, in particular within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD);
b. at a bilateral level in accordance with Article 18 of the Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income.
B. The Governments of Australia and Japan reaffirm the declaration by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in May 1998 to continue the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions.
2. Business and Consumer Confidence
The Governments of Australia and Japan recognise that it is essential that business and consumers have confidence in electronic transactions. Developments in this area should recognise the importance of private sector leadership, and should promote both a competitive market for and user confidence in electronic transactions. This will be facilitated by action in the following areas:
A. Electronic Transactions and Authentication: The Governments of Australia and Japan recognise the opportunity that electronic commerce offers to facilitate and increase trade. Both Governments will work to build a global framework that supports, domestically and internationally, the recognition of electronic transactions and authentication methods. Recognising that each country's history and culture has shaped its transaction rules, at the international level the Governments of Australia and Japan will support the development worldwide of a legal structure that will facilitate a variety of authentication methods and technologies, as well as a variety of implementation models, as long as the underlying purpose of any authentication system is the encouragement of user confidence in electronic commerce . This approach should:
a. Remove legal obstacles to electronic transactions by respecting relevant provisions from the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce.
b. Permit parties to an electronic transaction to determine by mutual agreement the appropriate authentication technologies and implementation models for their transaction, with assurance that, to the maximum extent possible, those technologies and implementation models will be recognised and enforced according to the agreement of the parties within the principles of law.
c. Permit parties to an electronic transaction to have the opportunity to prove in court that their authentication technique and their electronic transaction are valid.
d. Take a non-discriminatory approach to electronic authentication methods from other countries.
B. Privacy: Ensuring the effective protection of privacy with regard to the processing of personal information on global information networks is necessary, as is the need to continue the free flow of information. The OECD Privacy Guidelines provide an appropriate basis for policy development. With regard to frameworks for personal information protection:
a. Governments and businesses should consider consumers' concerns about their personal information.
b. Governments should support industry in implementing effective privacy protection. Legislation can be provided in harmony with such support where considered appropriate by the Government.
c. Personal information should be collected and handled in a fair and reasonable manner consistent with generally accepted privacy principles.
C. Critical Infrastructures: The Government of Australia and the Government of Japan believe information security should be achieved primarily through industry awareness and industry based solutions. Protection of information (as well as information systems and infrastructures themselves) is a key element in building user confidence. In some cases information infrastructures are critical to public safety and national economic welfare. The OECD Guidelines for the Security of Information Systems should be the basis for national approaches to information security. Governments should provide leadership and provide advice on threats, vulnerabilities and security responses to ensure that critical information infrastructures are protected.
D. Consumer Protection: Consumers using electronic commerce should receive an equivalent level of protection to that provided for other forms of commerce. This can be promoted through enforcement of existing consumer protection laws and practices; modification of these laws and practices as necessary to accommodate the unique characteristics of the online market; consumer education; and industry-supported mechanisms to empower consumers and resolve consumer complaints and concerns.
As the Internet is a medium for promoting, in a positive way, diffusion of knowledge, cultural diversity and social interaction, as well as a means of facilitating commerce,
A. Governments should not prevent their citizens from accessing information simply because it is published online in another country.
B. Where users do not wish to receive certain types of content (such as that which is unsuitable for children) filtering/blocking systems or other tools should be made available. Industry self-regulation will assist in the promotion of content labelling.
C. Industry will need to deal appropriately with complaints about prohibited content. On-line service providers should be expected to work with domestic law enforcement authorities as well as with their international counterparts to stem the transmission of illegal content.
D. The Governments of Australia and Japan will encourage international cooperation between law enforcement authorities to prevent, investigate and prosecute illegal activities on the Internet and the use of electronic commerce for criminal purposes.
4. Government Services and Information
A. The Governments of Australia and Japan believe good administration will be promoted by governments pursuing excellence in the online delivery of government services and information. This should be done in a way that reflects the needs of citizens and minimises bureaucratic processes. Governments can act as role models and market catalysts in developing the information economy.
B. Governments' effective use of electronic payments systems will enhance business and user confidence.
C. Governments should encourage developments in authentication technologies, including public key and other technologies, to facilitate trade through the use of secure electronic exchanges of permits and licences. As part of that process, systematic authentication systems for governments should be developed, built, and implemented.
D. The Governments of Australia and Japan recognise the value of, and will continue to support, international cooperation in electronic delivery of government services through bodies such as the International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration, and through collaborative work such as the G7 Government Online Project.
5. Internet Governance
The Governments of Australia and Japan acknowledge the following as guiding principles for global governance of the Internet.
Policy development in all areas of Internet management should comprehensively engage industry interests. As a general rule, responsible industry self-regulation is preferable to government control because it is likely to be more flexible and responsive to the changing needs of the Internet and of Internet users. The self-regulatory process should, as far as possible, reflect the bottom-up governance that has so far characterised development of the Internet.
The Internet succeeds in great measure because it is a decentralised system that encourages innovation and maximises individual freedom. Where possible, market mechanisms that support competition and consumer choice should drive the management of the Internet. This will lower costs, promote innovation, encourage diversity, and enhance user choice and satisfaction.
The Governments of Australia and Japan welcome the establishment of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to manage the global domain name system (DNS).
A. The Governments of Australia and Japan aim to ensure that the DNS overseen by ICANN:
a. is global, fair and market-based;
(b) reflects the geographically and functionally diverse nature of the Internet; and
b. provides for dispute settlement processes that are not burdensome and do not favour any specific jurisdiction.
B. The Governments of Australia and Japan acknowledge the need for further work in international fora to address the issue of domain names and trade marks (including well-known marks).
C. The Governments of Australia and Japan support the further development of a system of DNS management which is inclusive of all nations and is responsive to the requirements of Internet stakeholders worldwide.
6. Intellectual Property Rights
The Governments of Australia and Japan consider that growth of electronic commerce depends on the adequate protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), including industrial property rights and copyright. The widespread and effective protection of patents and other IPR concerning infrastructure of electronic commerce is essential for the progress of electronic commerce. The WTO TRIPs Agreement provides international minimum standards for intellectual property rights protection, that are directly applicable to electronic commerce. The WTO electronic commerce work program provides an opportunity to clarify the operation of existing TRIPs rules in the digital environment. The Governments of Australia and Japan will make an effort to take the necessary steps to accede to and implement the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and will continue to study the issues involved in accession to and implementation of the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
The Governments of Australia and Japan consider that the supporting infrastructure for online transactions must be technically and commercially suitable, particularly in terms of adequate bandwidth and competitive pricing. The optimal outcome will be achieved through the competitive provision of infrastructure and telecommunication services within a regulatory framework that encourages competition.
IV. ACTION AGENDA
Recognising that bilateral cooperation can complement the development of essential multilateral frameworks, the Governments of Australia and Japan will:
a. Work with the private sector and consumer groups in both countries to promote dialogue, cooperation and further action on the issues contained in this statement, including facilitating the translation of this cooperation into meaningful international frameworks.
b. continue to cooperate closely at relevant international fora (for example, the WTO, WIPO, WCO, OECD, UNCITRAL, UNCTAD and APEC).
c. Actively promote the exchange of information and views at government level on all relevant electronic commerce issues. This could include economic and trade issues such as how both governments can refrain from unnecessary impediments to trade, thereby ensuring a free transaction environment for electronic commerce, or how electronic commerce affects small and medium sized enterprises, including their ability to develop markets and generate employment; and the broader economic and social impacts of electronic commerce.
d. Work to ensure that the benefits of such exchanges are shared more broadly, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
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