(Bloomberg) -- China is expected to join nearly 70 other countries in negotiating new rules to cover the $25 trillion e-commerce market, according to four people familiar with the discussions.
The signatories -- including the U.S., Japan and the European Union -- are due to announce the agreement on Friday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. If successful, a digital trade accord hashed out in the World Trade Organization would establish a baseline international regime for 21st century trade and reduce cross-border hurdles to e-commerce.
China, which for years has heavily restricted use of the internet inside its borders, had resisted joining the talks until Thursday, raising concerns over the language in the statement advocating a “high standard outcome,” said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are ongoing. Chinese officials have traditionally resisted such wording over worries it’s code for U.S. demands.
The countries confirmed their intention to “commence WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce,” according to a draft statement obtained by Bloomberg. “We will seek to achieve a high standard outcome that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many members as possible.”
The group is expected to hold their first formal negotiating session in March.
China’s decision to join the agreement adds greater weight to its potential. China is expected to register $5.5 trillion in online sales this year due to the spread of its powerful online companies like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc.
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