Focusing on the “2007 APEC Symposium on Paperless Trading Capacity Building and IP Protection”

By Han Jingyi, China IP,[Comprehensive Reports]

    On August 14, the “2007 APEC Symposium on Paperless Trading Capacity Building and IP Protection” was held in Beijing. Ambassador Juan Capunay, Deputy Executive Director of APEC Secretariat and Mr. Liao Xiaoqi, China’s Vice Minister of Commerce, attended the symposium and delivered speeches. At the symposium were representatives from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, General Administration of Customs, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, State Intellectual Property Office, National Working Group for Intellectual Property Rights Protection, as well as the governments of 21 APEC economies, academia and businesses such as Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co., Ltd.
    APEC economies attach great significance to the important role played by paperless trading in promoting trade liberalization and trade facilitation. The 2006 APEC Ministerial Meeting proposed the objective of developing paperless trading, building an environment of trade facilitation, and achieving a substantial 5% reduction in trade transaction costs. Under this background, China, joined by the U.S., Russia, Thailand and Canada, proposed an APEC project on “Paperless Trading Capacity Building and IP Protection”, and the project was officially approved by the 18th Ministerial Meeting in November 2006. This project is the only major APEC project undertaken by the Chinese government in 2007, and also the only major APEC research project in the area of paperless trading involving intellectual property issues. It is composed of two parts: first, submission of the “Research Report on APEC Paperless Trading Capacity Building and IP Protection” (the “Research Report”), and second, holding the “2007 APEC Symposium on Paperless Trading Capacity Building and IP Protection”.
     This Symposium was sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization (APEC) and China’s Ministry of Commerce and organized by the APEC E-Commerce Business Alliance and the China International Electronic Commerce Center. In three days, three topics were discussed: the status quo of the development of APEC paperless trading, the status quo of IPR protection, and the proposal for feasible development, which are all aimed at the study of important issues of intellectual property in paperless trading capacity building. Meanwhile, the symposium proposed the policy and development of reasonable allocation of such elements as intellectual property in paperless trading capacity building.

The Development of Paperless Trading Requires the Protection from Intellectual Property
     When talking about paperless trading, naturally we have to define it first. The 2005 APEC Evaluation Report on Development of Paperless Trading defines paperless trading as the exchange of trade data in an electronic form, which means that each of the participants in a trade chain makes use of information technology, and achieves normative information data processing in order to complete the entire trading transaction.
     What is the relationship between IPR protection and paperless trading? Mr. Wang Zhicheng, head of the Group of Documents of the Leading Group of National Intellectual Property Strategy Formulation Office, holds that intellectual property protection is the basis and indispensable condition of paperless trading. The reasons are as follows:
     Firstly, information technology is the basic platform for a paperless trading capacity to be established. If there is no information technology, network technology and communication technology under the protection of intellectual property, there is no way to realize paperless trading or electronic commerce.
     Secondly, achieving paperless trading also requires some supplementary technologies, such as secret keeping, electronic signatures, electronic authentication and electronic contract technology.
     Thirdly, a very critical point is the recognition system of commercial service and goods. The most important part of this system is the trademark, which is embodied on the internet by the domain name and image application. To achieve paperless trading, strict protection of the intellectual property in the provider’s service and goods must be guaranteed. Otherwise, it is impossible for us to obtain real trading opportunities.
     Fourthly, a normative system is a premise. One objective pursued for paperless trading is a single window. In fact, a single window is established to a great extent on the basis of a commonly recognized uniform normative system. In this normative process many technologies are used. Otherwise it is impossible to achieve more facilitated paperless trading. 
     Fifthly, software and database are also very important. Paperless trading, in the process of its fulfillment, must be protected by many databases. If these databases cannot be protected by intellectual property, the development of paperless trading will encounter much difficulty.

Preliminary Effect of the Development of APEC Paperless Trading
     In fact, paperless trading is a big concept. Mr. Wang Jian, Chief Expert of APEC E-Commerce Business Alliance, points out that paperless trading involves international trade, electronic commerce and electronic government. Its ecological environment includes links in the industrial chain at different levels, such as infrastructure providers, internet providers, ID service providers and application project providers. Therefore, participants of paperless trading are not only the parties conducting transactions as the government of every country is also involved as a third party. The latest issue of Research Report indicates that APEC economies have made some progress in the field of paperless trading: 
     First, governments of some of the economies have increasingly realized the importance of paperless trading. For instance, the South Korean government developed a long-term plan for developing paperless trading in order to promote the development of electronic commerce; Hong Kong SAR enacted laws and regulations on electronic government; Russia adopted the mode of electronic procurement to promote the development of paperless trading and e-commerce; the Vietnamese government formulated various kinds of plans to promote the development of electronic trading, and it is estimated that there will be a remarkable development from 2006 to 2010.
     Second, some economies are also trying their best to provide a more favorable legal environment for paperless trading. For instance, South Korea promulgated the Trade Automation Act in 1991which has become an important trade-related law in South Korea; China is enacting the Electronic Signature Law so as to provide a more favorable legal environment for enterprises in China. 
    Third, many countries have promulgated their own standards of e-commerce, and these standards are becoming increasingly uniform. More and more countries and companies have adopted the new standards, which is beneficial to promoting the further development of paperless trading. Moreover, the application of technology in e-commerce is becoming more outstanding. For example, South Korea and Japan have adopted the image system for e-commerce; Canada has formulated an action plan concerning the transition from the traditional mode of networked acceptance and declaration to the mode of EDI; Hong Kong SAR is gradually developing its DDTN, and the E-Commerce Center of China is also sparing no efforts in promoting the development of e-commerce.   

 “Digital Gap” in the Development of APEC Paperless Trading
    The advantages of paperless trading in raising efficiency, reducing costs and simplifying trading process have been demonstrated in practice. However, the problems emerging in the implementation process should not be ignored. Mr. Zhang Nianlu, Secretary-General of APEC Electronic Commerce Business Alliance, points out that based on the analysis of the 2005 APEC Evaluation Report of Paperless Trading Development, there exists a relatively big “digital gap” between most of the APEC developing economies and developed economies in paperless trading, which is mainly reflected in the differences of developing a paperless trading evironment and its level of application. As to the actual cause, apart from the difference in levels of economic and social development, lack of protection, innovation and diffusion mechanism of such intellectual resources as relevant knowledge, standards, technologies, products and services, and failure to fully exploit and reasonably collocate relevant resources are also factors that cannot be neglected.   
     During the round table conference held on August 15, experts present unanimously agreed that the “digital gap” has become a bottleneck to the development of paperless trading. The ultimate objective of APEC paperless trading is to achieve a single “window” system on the international plane, and to achieve this objective requires conformity of systems among the economies. However, each of the APEC members has adopted its own unique mode in the implementation of paperless trading which is very difficult to unify. Furthermore, the successful experience of developed economies may not be a right choice for developing economies. Therefore, a “digital gap” is formed inside APEC, resulting in an enormous challenge before the improvement of the overall level of APEC paperless trading. Hence, it is urgent to establish and perfect as quickly as possible the sharing and protection of technology and knowledge related to paperless trading.

IPR Protection Improves the Level of Paperless Trading Capacity Building
    After the progress achieved and challenges confronted in APEC paperless trading were ascertained in several days’ discussion, experts from the economies offered advice for the future development of APEC paperless trading. For instance, to quicken the IPR protection of the economies, especially of the developing economies, based on their development needs; to establish a relevant platform to strengthen the intellectual property space shared by paperless trading; to take adaptable measures to promote the construction of a public service system; and to improve the coordinative capacity of the departments related to intellectual property. At the end of this Symposium, the APEC member economies agreed after discussion that paperless trading and intellectual property protection are closely related to each other, and should be developed harmoniously. Four consensuses were reached:
    1. To submit “The Development Line Map for APEC Paperless Trading Capacity Building and IP Protection”. The representatives believed that member economies should gradually and reasonably enhance the building of a paperless trading capacity based on their own development to live up to the major objectives in the APEC Blueprint for Actions on Electronic Commerce.
     2. To propose the establishment of a “Framework of APEC Paperless Trading Intellectual Property Service System”, and to develop flexible policies used in IP protection in the paperless trading capacity in the APEC Region, including the establishment of an IP fund supporting the development of a paperless trading capacity, and the setup of an IP preferential payment system for government procurement in paperless trading capacity.
     3. To propose the establishment of a “Directory of APEC Paperless Trade and Service Resource” and “Service Platform of APEC Paperless Trading Knowledge Resource”, so as to advance the recognition, popularization and transaction of related products and services, and to eliminate the obstacles to capacity building and overall development of APEC paperless trading. 
     4. To propose the establishment of the “Digital Rights Management Promotion Committee of the APEC E-Commerce Business Alliance”. The organizers supported the proposal of APEC's E-Commerce Business Alliance “to strengthen digital copyright protection, to crack down on internet infringement, and to safeguard IP in the internet field”, so as to enhance exchanges and cooperation on digital copyright protection, improve the environmental building for optimization of digital copyright protection and boost the overall development of digital copyright protection in the Asia and Pacific region.

(Translated by Ma Jing)


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