WTO member countries must prioritise discussions on crypto currency under the ongoing e-commerce negotiations at the forum–one at the multilateral level on moratorium on import duties on e-transmissions and the other a limited-group joint sector initiative encompassing e-commerce rules–before members start taking liberties with its interpretation leading to disputes, per a report by research body Global Trade and Research Initiative (GTRI).

“The treatment of crypto currencies (a digital currency operating outside central banks) and the diverse positions of nations like the USA and India will shape the future of WTO e-commerce negotiations,” according to Ajay Srivastava, former Indian Trade Services officer and founder, GTRI.

While the crypto market is garnering increased global attention, its classification under the WTO e-commerce framework remains ambiguous.

“The debate should pivot on whether exchange of crypto-currency fall under “electronic transmissions” in the e-commerce scope,” the GTRI report pointed out.

Discussing the matter at the WTO  promises to not only reshape the digital trade ecosystem but also redefine the WTO’s approach towards modern challenges.

“Globally, crypto-currency adoption is witnessing an uptrend. India, for instance, has levied a heightened capital gains tax on crypto earnings. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the necessity of a unified international framework to regulate such emergent technologies,” the report stated.

The WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, could be a good forum to discuss cryptos.

The WTO defines e-commerce as the electronic production, distribution, sale, or delivery of goods and services. This includes products such as books, music, and videos transmitted digitally, the report noted.