Electronic Commerce Steering Group
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The amount of trade conducted electronically has grown exponentially and electronic commerce has transformed many industry sectors and the way business is done.

The Electronic Commerce Steering Group (ECSG) promotes the development and use of electronic commerce by creating legal, regulatory and policy environments in the APEC region that are predictable, transparent and consistent. It performs a coordinating role for APEC e-commerce activities, based on the principles set out in the 1998 APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic Commerce.

The ECSG also explores how economies may best develop legal, regulatory and policy environments that are predictable, transparent and optimised to enable economies across all levels of development to utilise Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to drive economic growth and social development.

The ECSG recognises the importance of public-private collaboration in developing an environment conducive to e-commerce and encourages the active participation and contribution of the private sector to its meetings and activities. Reports presented by guest organisations to the group, including the Global Business Dialogue on e-Society, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Pan Asian E-Commerce Alliance, the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Internet Society are a welcome contribution to the ECSG.

Originally established in 1999 as an APEC Senior Official's Special Task Force, the ECSG was aligned to the Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI) in 2007. This alignment enhances the coordinating capacity of the ECSG by ensuring a stronger focus on trade and investment issues.

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The 28th ECSG Meeting was held on 23 – 27 June 2013 in Medan, Indonesia.

Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS)

  • The APEC/EU Working Team, created to study the interoperability of the APEC and EU data privacy regimes, met for the second time in Medan. The team is focusing on developing a document or tool that will describe the main elements which are common to the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system and the EU Building Corporate Rules (BCR).
  • Among many economies who are interested in joining the CBPR System, Japan expressed its official interest to participate in the Cross-Border Data Privacy system (CBPR). The current members are the US and Mexico.
  • The United States has issued a Federal Notice inviting accountability agents to apply for recognition under the CBPR system. Joint Oversight Panel (JOP) has completed evaluation of the application of TRUSTe. And TRUSTe is the first accountability agent recognized under the APEC CBPR System. (Please see the relevant documents on the recognition of TRUSTe as an accountability agent.)  Mexico also announced its intention to issue a similar notice soon.
  • The United States updated the information of capacity building assistance under the Multi-Year Project. Member economies who are interested in joining the CBPR System may participate in the technical assistance program. Peru has participated in the technical assistance program and more economies are encouraged to do as well.
  • The Glossary of privacy-related terms has been finalized and will be uploaded at the Cross-Border Privacy Rules system (CBPR) website. The Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS) members agreed that the glossary will be a dynamic document and will be updated as necessary.
  • The CBPR website which is hosted by Microsoft serves as a one-stop window for different stakeholders: Consumers, Business, Accountability Agents, and Government. The website will be live soon.
  • DPS will undertake a stocktake on the enforceability of data protection requirements against data processors and develop a policy paper that will include an overview of the approach as the process might be different from that of data controllers. Based on the results of the stocktake, the intake document for date processors will be revised accordingly.
  • DPS will engage in a stocktake of the APEC Privacy Framework. A working group was created to determine the elements and scope of the stocktake that will focus on domestic and international implementation of the framework.
  • Member economies are encouraged to update their Data Privacy Individual Action Plans (IAPs) which would help the DPS stocktake.


    Paperless Trading Subgroup (PTS)

  • The Paperless Trading Subgroup (PTS) discussed the progress of on-going projects to provide e-solutions or electronic procedures and processes in cross-border trade, in order to save time and cut costs and uncertainties for firms and government agencies. These projects included the following: Electronic Certificate Origin (ECO), e-negotiation, e-invoicing, e-SPS, archiving of e-documents and e-trade financing.
  • The Electronic Certificate Origin (ECO) projects which started live operation in May 2010 continues to be implemented between Chinese Taipei and Korea. Discussions and systems testing with other member economies are on-going as part of expanding the scope of the project within APEC.
  • An APEC funded workshop on the “Study on the Readiness of the Electronic Certificate Origin Implementation in Cross-border Trade in APEC Region” was organized by China in Beijing in July 2012 to determine obstacles to the Electronic Certificate Origin (ECO) project. The final report highlighted the need to do the following: economies to strengthen ECO system construction, improve ECO-related laws and regulations, improve ECO technical expertise, establish a safe network, prevent online fraud; intensify inter-agency collaboration within the border; promote cross-border cooperation and exchanges among member economies; and enhance cross-fora communication and cooperation within APEC.
  • In order to foster a better understanding of the Electronic Certificate Origin (ECO) initiative among APEC member economies, Chinese Taipei presented the idea of developing a framework for cross-border exchange of ECO within APEC. The Members agreed with the concept and encouraged Chinese Taipei to develop the initiative and prepare the concept note. It was also decided that a survey would be conducted first to determine the feasibility of pursuing the project.
  • The successful implementation of the ECO project requires strong collaboration with the APEC Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures (SCCP). The members reiterated the importance of collaboration with SCCP.
  • Korea presented its progress on the project “Enhancing Reliable Supply Chains by e-B/L Exchange in APEC region” together with China and Russia. The outcomes of the e-B/L Exchange project, a seamless paperless trade process, will be presented in a workshop that will be scheduled during the fourth quarter of 2013.
  • China has proposed the project “Enhancing the Global Supply Chain Efficiency by E-Manifest Exchange in the APEC region.”


ECSG Plenary Meeting

  • Members noted that ECSG sees the need to work more closely with the Committee on Trade and Investment (CTI), the Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures (SCCP) and the Telecommunications and Information Working Group (TEL) for the successful implementation of its goals and projects. Members also recognized the need to make itself more relevant to other APEC fora, such as the Small and Medium Enterprise Working Group.
  • It was agreed that the ECSG will do a stocktake/mapping exercise of the work the Steering Group has done to achieve the 1998 APEC Blueprint for Action on Electronic Commerce which has been the basis of the creation of ECSG.
  • While the work of ECSG in the past few years has been focused primarily on data privacy and paperless trading which are crucial for the development of e-commerce, the members recognized the need to address the development of e-commerce in the APEC region in a broader sense, including cross-border e-commerce among the member economies.
  • The members agreed to come up with projects/activities at the ECSG level in addition to the projects that are undertaken at the sub-group level while ensuring that these are consistent or aligned with the priorities of the Committee on Trade and Investment.
  • In line with the new direction, Mexico, China and Russia presented their project proposals on the development of e-commerce in the APEC region. Based on the suggestions of the members of ECSG, Mexico, China and Russia will work together to discuss in more specific detail the scope and objectives of their projects.
  • Other member economies agreed to help in this endeavour that led to the idea of creating a working group, and which became the “Friends of the Chair” (FOTC).


The 27th ECSG Meeting was held on 30 January–2 February 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS)

The first meeting of the APEC/EU Working Team was held. The creation of this working group to study the interoperability of the APEC and EU data privacy regimes was endorsed by APEC in 2012 in Kazan, Russia. To facilitate discussions at the meeting, the Article 29 Working Party (Article 29 refers to the Binding Corporate Rule of the EU Data Protection Directive) prepared the document “Referential for the Structure of EU Binding Corporate Rules (BCR) and APEC Cross-border Privacy Rules (CBPR).” The Working Team has made some progress on a large part of the document with a common referential that describes the main elements which are common to BCR and CBPR, and additional blocks which present their main differences. The Working Team members agreed to continue the discussion intersessionally to finalize the document.

The ECSG also discussed documents such as the CBPR Glossary and Intake Document for Personal Information Processors.

The ECSG (DPS) decided to undertake a Stocktake of the APEC Privacy Framework. A working group will be created to determine elements and scope of the stocktake.

A Workshop on APEC Privacy Enforcement will be held on 17-18 July 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand. This will mark the third anniversary of the commencement of the Cross Border Enforcement Agreement (CPEA) and will address privacy enforcement topics both to newly established and existing privacy enforcement authorities.

Paperless Trading Subgroup (PTS)

The current progress on the Electronic Certificate of Origin (ECO) project was reported. The project began in May 2010 and continues to be implemented by Chinese Taipei and Korea. The ECSG noted the lessons required to move forward with the implementation of ECO, which were identified at the APEC-funded workshop on the “Study on the Readiness of ECO Implementation in Cross-border Trade in APEC Region” held in July 2012 in Beijing, China.

The ECSG decided to promote strong collaboration with The Sub-Committee on Customs Procedures (SCCP) to implement the ECO project. The PTS Chair presented the project at the SCCP meeting. Further collaboration between the two groups has been agreed.

To complement the work of PTS on ECO and to implement part of the roadmap for trade facilitation, Korea has proposed a project “Enhancing Reliable Supply Chains by e-B/L Exchange in APEC Region.”


The ECSG has guided numerous capacity building projects that promote the development and use of electronic commerce and ICTs within the APEC region including:

APEC Data Privacy Pathfinder

The APEC Data Privacy Pathfinder was established by Ministers in 2007 to achieve accountable cross-border flow of personal information within the APEC region. This goal is to be achieved by developing and implementing a Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system, consistent with the APEC Privacy Framework which was endorsed by APEC Ministers in 2004.

The CBPR system requires organizations to develop their own internal business rules on cross-border privacy procedures, which must be assessed as compliant with the minimum requirements of the APEC system by an independent public or private sector body, called an Accountability Agent. The ECSG has been working toward the development of the APEC CBPR system, which will help build consumer, business and regulator trust in the electronic cross-border flow of personal information.

On 26 July 2012 the United States was confirmed as having met the conditions for member economy participation in the CBPR System. This followed the Joint Oversight Panel (JOP) releasing a findings report that unanimously determined that the United States had met the conditions set out in the APEC CBPR Charter. The United States had provided a Notice of Intent to participate in the CBPR System, which included annexes outlining relevant domestic laws and regulations and an APEC CBPR System Program Requirements Enforcement Map.

Progress on the implementation of the APEC Privacy Framework includes the application of Information Privacy Individual Action Plans by 14 economies, and the creation of a study group within the Data Privacy Sub-Group (DPS) to analyze and identify best practices and the role of trust-marks in promoting the cross-border flow of information.

A  notable progress in this area is the establishment of an APEC Cross-Border Privacy Enforcement Arrangement (CPEA) in July 2010. This multilateral arrangement provides the first mechanism in the APEC region for Privacy Enforcement Authorities to share information and provide assistance for cross-border data privacy enforcement. The CPEA signifies the ongoing commitment within APEC to increase the protection of cross-border flows of personal information and is a significant step in the effective implementation of the APEC Privacy Framework.

A series of seminars have been held to provide technical assistance to developing economies and to address issues related to the development of CBPR system such as trust marks, regulatory models, accountability, privacy, governance and operational issues, and how the system benefits different stakeholders.

APEC Ministers endorsed the principal documents of the APEC Privacy Pathfinder in November 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. APEC Leaders also committed to implement the CBPR System “to reduce barriers to information flows, enhance consumer privacy, and promote interoperability across regional data privacy regimes.”

Paperless trading

The ECSG's Paperless Trading Subgroup develops projects on the use of paperless trading in commercial processes involving business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) transactions and promotes the use of electronic documents and internet technologies in international trade.

These projects aim to use "e-solutions" or electronic procedures and processes in cross-border trade to save time and costs for firms and government agencies seeking regulatory compliance information from traders. Areas covered by these projects include: electronic certificates of origin (ECO), electronic invoicing, business requirements for data harmonisation and single window, best practices in paperless trading, archiving of e-documents and e-trade financing. Among those projects, the ECO project has been implemented in live transactions between member economies beyond its pilot stage, saving substantial cost and time and thus realizing the benefits of trade facilitation.

Work is underway to implement APEC's Strategies and Actions Toward a Cross-Border Paperless Trading Environment to enable the electronic transmission of trade-related information across the region by 2020.

Seventeen economies have submitted Individual Action Plans on Paperless Trading outlining progress made "to reduce or eliminate the requirement for paper documents needed for customs and other cross-border trade administration and other documents and messages relevant to international sea, air and land transport" as set out in the APEC Blueprint for Action on E-Commerce.

Maria Lourdes A. YAPTINCHAY (Ms)
ECSG Chair
Director Office of Policy Research / E-Commerce Office
Department of Trade and Industry
385 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue
1200 Makati City
Tel: +632 8971243 / +632 9765701
Amran SAMEON (Mr)
ECSG Vice Chair
Director Trade Facilitation and Technology
Ministry of International Trade and Industry
10th Floor Block 10 Government Offices Complex
Jalan Duta 50622 Kuala Lumpur
Joji KOIKE (Mr)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat
Daniele CHATELOIS (Ms)
Data Privacy Sub-group (DPS) Chair
Manager, Privacy Policy
Electronic Commerce Branch
Industry Canada
300 Slater Street, Room 1889-D
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0C8
Tel: +1613 990-4255
Fax: +1613 941-1164
Susan H. S. LU (Ms)
Paperless Trading Sub-group (PTS) Chair
Executive Secretary E-Commerce Task Force Chinese Taipei
Tel: +82 2 2110 4817
Fax: +82 2 504 6000
Karen YEO

Electronic Commerce Steering Group
Committee on Trade and Investment