This article covers emerging trade issues driven by the rapid expansion of goods incorporating digital products. Historically, trade bodies and agreements struggled to develop a uniform policy concerning software, the earliest digital product. In large part, the difficulty arose from differing rules for goods and services. As digital content expanded beyond software and became embedded in a wide array of products, the goods or services distinction grew in importance, while simultaneously becoming more difficult to administer. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) have addressed this digital convergence through electronic commerce provisions that do not rely on traditional goods/service distinctions but seek instead to unify the treatment of digital goods across product lines and delivery means.
To appreciate the significance of the new digital commerce provisions, this article first presents the treatment of digital products in the absence of digital commerce provisions. Second, an analysis of the digital commerce provisions in recent trade agreements is presented. The expansion of digital commerce provisions and its implication on other taxes is then presented. This article concludes with a discussion of the possible relationship between most favoured nation (MFN) provisions of service agreement and digital commerce provisions and a case study concerning a recent digital convergence product – e-books.Global Trade and Customs Journal