Electronic Commerce Steering Group

The amount of trade conducted electronically has grown exponentially and electronic commerce has transformed many industry sectors and the way business is done.  Business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales worldwide reached $1.6 trillion USD in 2015, and is projected to grow by 20 per cent this year and in the foreseeable future Retail e-commerce sales in Asia-Pacific hit $877.61 billion USD in Asia-Pacific in 2015, and its share of global digital spend represents 52.5 per cent of the world market.1

The Electronic Commerce Steering Group (ECSG) promotes the development and use of electronic commerce by supporting the creation of legal, regulatory and policy environments in the APEC region that are predictable, transparent and consistent. The ECSG’s work is geared toward enabling economies across all levels of development to be able to utilise Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to drive economic growth and social development. 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 could best 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. We also work closely with guest organisations including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Pan Asian E-Commerce Alliance (PAA), the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFAT), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trustmark Alliance (WTA) and the Internet Society (ISOC). Originally established in 1999 as an APEC Senior Official's Special Task Force, the ECSG was aligned with 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.

1. “Asia-Pacific is home to majority of world retail Ecommerce Market”, 16 December 2015, e-Marketer, http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Asia-Pacific-Home-Majority-of-World-Retail-Ecommerce-Market/1013352
Last page update: December 2016

Current Activities

Data Privacy Subgroup (DPS)

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.

Progress on the implementation of the APEC Privacy Framework includes the application of Information Privacy Individual Action Plans (IAPs) 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 (PEAs) 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.

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

APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) System

In November 2011, the APEC Leaders issued a directive to implement the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules System (CBPR).  The CBPR system balances the flow of information and data across borders while at the same time providing effective protection for personal information, essential to trust and confidence in the online marketplace.  The system is one by which the privacy policies and practices of companies operating in the APEC region are assessed and certified by a Third party verifier (known as an “Accountability Agent”) and follows a set of commonly agreed upon rules, based on the APEC Privacy Framework.  By applying this commonly agreed-upon baseline set of rules, the CBPR system bridges across domestic differences that may exist amongst domestic privacy approaches.   Currently, four (4) APEC member economies - Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States - have aligned their privacy laws with the APEC Privacy Framework.

APEC Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) System

The Privacy Recognition for Processors System (PRP) Governance Documents was endorsed by APEC in August 2015.  The PRP system is designed to help personal information processors assist controllers in complying with relevant privacy obligations, and helps controllers identify qualified and accountable processors.  This is done through an intake questionnaire which sets forth the baseline requirements of the PRP.  The APEC-recognized Accountability Agent will then assess a processor seeking recognition based on a set of requirements.

APEC Privacy Framework 

The ECSG-DPS recently completed its update of the APEC Privacy Framework which was endorsed by the Ministers in November 2016.  The updated APEC Privacy Framework 2015 addresses the gaps in policies and regulatory frameworks on E-Commerce to ensure that the free flow of information and data across borders is balanced with the effective protection of personal information essential to trust and confidence in the online market place.

Promoting Interoperability between APEC-EU Privacy Rules Systems   

In September 2012, a joint APEC-EU Working Group was created with Senior Official Meeting’s (SOM) approval.  The Working Group consists of interested APEC Economies and representatives from data protection authorities in the European Union Article 29 Working Party and from the European Commission.

Since its inception, the Working Committee has been engaged in the discussions regarding similarities and differences between the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules System (CBPR) and the EU system of Binding Corporate Rules System (BCR) to promote interoperability and facilitates transfers of personal information between the two regions. 

In January 2014, the joint APEC-EU Working Committee led to the development and completion of a Common Referential for the Structure of the EU System of Binding Corporate Rules and APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules SystemThe goal of this referential is to serve as an informal pragmatic checklist for companies applying for authorization of the EU system of Binding Corporate Rules System (BCR) and certification under APEC’s Cross Border Privacy Rules system (CBPR).    In addition to outlining compliance and certification requirements of both APEC CBPR and EU BCR systems, the referential also identifies common elements and additional requirements for each.  This will be useful for companies applying for certification under both systems.  This initiative is just the first step of the work on APEC CBPR and the EU BCR.  The long-term goal is to work on the interoperability of these systems.

Since 2015, both sides explored the possibility further cooperation to foster interoperability between the APEC CBPR and EU BCR systems.  In response to private sector requests, the DPS submitted an expression of interest to the EU Article 29 Working Party in April 2015, to which a response was received in May 2015.  The EU agreed to, in the short to medium term to work with the DPS on a joint application form for the BCRs and CBPR System, and a mapping of policies, practices, tools that are to be submitted as part of applications under both systems.   In the longer term, the EU agreed to work on a common referential for processor recognition, mapping the requirements of the BCRs for processors and the APEC PRP.   Since August 2015, the joint APEC-EU Working Committee held a discussion with private sector stakeholders who provided views and advice on the functionalities and important elements of a common questionnaire.   The Working Committee is currently continuing work in developing this common questionnaire.

Related News

See all news


Electronic Commerce Steering Group

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

Related Publications

See all publications


Contact Us

Mr Andrew Flavin

Assistant to the ECSG Chair
Policy Advisor, Office of Digital Services Industries, U.S. Department of Commerce
Assistant to ECSG Chair


Vice Chair to the ECSG-DPS

Mr Michael Rose

Vice Chair, ECSG-DPS
Vice Chair to ECSG-DPS
U.S. Department of Commerce

Ms Shannon Coe

ECSG Chair and Acting ECSG-PTS Chair
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr Shinji KAKUNO

ECSG Vice Chair
International Affairs Office Commerce and Information Policy Bureau Commerce and Information Policy Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Ms Karen YEO

Program Director