three roundtable discussions dedicated to international trade-related issues were held at the premises of Ekvita Consulting in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Representatives of different ministries and agencies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, including the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Taxes, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies, Central Bank, State Customs Committee, Financial Markets Supervisory Authority participated in the roundtable discussions in the course of two days.
The roundtable themed “Current WTO issues: WTO Discussions on Electronic Commerce” was held on 18 October with the participation of Alicia Greenidge, senior international expert in international trade law and policy issues based in Geneva Switzerland. Along with many years of trade negotiations, Ms. Greenidge introduced and negotiated the launch of the WTO agenda on electronic commerce in 1998. In the first part of the roundtable, Ms. Greenidge presented on the e-commerce discussions at the World Trade Organization. Her presentation covered the evolution of global e-commerce, WTO moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions and the WTO’s long-standing Work Programme on e-commerce. WTO attention on electronic commerce has escalated in the last two years due to recent developments in the sector and the deployment of new technologies in trade and business platforms especially supporting small enterprises and consumers. The popularity of e-commerce has also resulted in new challenges for consumers and economies. At the same time, the different countries are working to surmount the protection of personal data. Ms. Greenidge also touched upon the ongoing plurilateral negotiations at the WTO aimed at the establishment of global rules on e-commerce as well as the issues explored in these negotiations, including the free flow of data, protection of data privacy and consumer rights, treatment of localization requirements, among others. The WTO Members’ quest for finding a balance between regulation and liberalization of data flows within the context of e-commerce rule-making was emphasized during the presentation.
In the second part of the roundtable, Farid Valiyev, Head of Project Management Department of the E-Government Development Center presented on the role of e-government in the development of e-commerce in Azerbaijan. Mr. Valiyev informed the participants about the e-government information systems, government-to-government, government-to-consumer and government-to-business information transmissions in Azerbaijan and successful e-government initiatives such as Asanpay, Asanfinans, Asanviza and eAgro information system.
The presentations were followed by interactive questions & answers session. The roundtable saw interesting discussions among the participants on electronic payments and taxation of e-commerce transactions globally and in Azerbaijan. Ms. Greenidge noted that Azerbaijan had already moved forward in certain areas of e-commerce which are currently discussed at the international level, which demonstrates that the reforms in the process of negotiations at the WTO are supporting internal advancements for Azerbaijan’s economy and relationships with global partners.
The two other roundtables were dedicated to recent landmark WTO dispute settlement cases.
The first one was held on 17 October with the participation of local expert Ilkin Aliyev and was dedicated to “Russia – Measures Concerning Traffic in Transit”. The speaker introduced different exceptions to the WTO obligations and explained the importance of having an exception for national security interests within the WTO legal framework. He then moved to the dispute settlement case in question concerning Russian Federation’s prohibition and restrictions on transit of goods of Ukrainian origin passing from its territory and going to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic. The Russian Federation justified these restrictions on the basis of national security concerns and the WTO dispute settlement panel found this justification consistent with the WTO’s national security exception.
The second roundtable discussion which was dedicated to “European Union – Certain Measures relating to the Energy Sector” dispute took place in the afternoon of 18 October with the participation of local expert Fikrin Bektashi. The speaker gave an introduction to the European Union’s Third Energy Package and its main elements which were challenged by the Russian Federation in the dispute in question for its alleged discriminatory effects. He discussed specific claims by the Russian Federation against the European Union and its certain members States, namely Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania, cited the WTO dispute settlement panel’s analysis and findings as well as referring to the potential effects of the dispute for the Southern Gas Corridor, which involves Azerbaijan as a central player.
The background and significance of both disputes ignited interesting discussions among the participants on their potential implications for Azerbaijan.
EKVITA consulting company can provide advice to your company on fighting counterfeit goods and procedure for inclusion of your products in the relevant customs register as well as provide your company with legal support for approaching the State Customs Committee. Lawyers and advocates of Ekvita can also represent your company in judicial cases on the suspension of counterfeit products import in courts of all instances.
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