Research (core) essay – International Trade Law I 2021:
The digital economy has rapidly grown over the last decades, but multilateral rules on cross-border
electronic transactions have not been meaningfully updated since the General Agreement on Trade in
Services entered into force in 1995. Formal negotiations of the so called World Trade Organization (WTO)
Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Electronic Commerce were launched in January 2019 in an attempt to
fill this gap and update the multilateral rulebook for the digital economy. The topics under negotiation
include regulations for both digital ordered goods and services and digitally delivered services, as well as
cross-cutting provisions to facilitate electronic transactions and establish trust between businesses,
consumers, and governments. It is expected that the e-commerce plurilateral negotiations will be
concluded ahead of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in November 2021, but a number of issues
remain to be resolved, in particular data flows, data localisation requirements, the disclosure of source
code, and customs duties on electronic transmissions. International Trade Law I 2021

On 18 February 2021, the WTO delegation of South Africa and India jointly submitted a communication
questioning the legal basis of such joint initiatives within the WTO and said that they thought plurilateral
efforts were detrimental to the rule-based multilateral trading system under the WTO.
You are a legal adviser to the Ambassador to the WTO, Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter. First, the ambassador
requests you to prepare a legal opinion on the legal status of such plurilateral joint initiatives within the
WTO. She also enquires whether and, if yes, how such initiatives can become part of WTO law. Second,
the ambassador asks you to prepare a (no longer than 600 words)1 draft press-statement highlighting the
reasons for the South African government not joining the JSI-negotiations. International Trade Law I 2021
Please take note of the following instructions: International Trade Law I 2021

 The assignment must be submitted on 20 June 2021 before 23:55h. No extensions will be granted.
A late assignment will attract a penalty of 5% per day (including weekends) up to a maximum of
a week (7 days), after which submissions will no longer be accepted.
 The assignment must be submitted via ulwazi/canvas – an automatic Turnitin report is generated.
 You are not required to submit a printed copy.
 You may not write- or password-protect your assignment, and if you submit a pdf, the
assignments must be in searchable pdf format.
 The file containing the assignment must be named as follows: Surname_student number_course
 No assignment will be marked if a Turnitin report is not available (if you have difficulty in
submitting on ulwazi/canvas, you must contact Sithandekile Ncube,
 The maximum length of the assignment is 5000 words (including footnotes but excluding the table
of contents and cover page). (We shall only be marking the first 5000 words.)

1 Can be shorter.
 The assignment must be printed in Calibri or Times New Roman, 11 or 12 pitch, and line-spacing
 You must follow the SALJ style.
The best of luck,
Ass Prof Franziska Sucker

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