U.S. and Japanese business leaders stressed in a joint statement Tuesday that the industrial sector should exercise leadership in the development of electronic commerce, which they expect will drive future economic growth.

The statement was the second released at the close of the 35th annual Japan-U.S. Business Conference in Tokyo.

In one of six issues addressed in the statement, participants recommended that electronic signatures for electronic authentication should be as legitimate as traditional methods such as handwritten signatures.

The legal process of giving electronic authentication the same legal status as traditional methods should be coordinated internationally and the authentication issue should not be used as a trade barrier, according to the statement.

Concerning the security and confidentiality of information in electronic commerce, business leaders said businesspeople and other users should be free to select whatever type of encryption technology they wish to protect information.

Regarding privacy and personal data, the participants urged that the basic principle of privacy protection be based on the industry’s self-regulation on a sectoral base, and that governments play a minimal role only in cases in which individuals suffer or are expected to suffer harm from an infringement of privacy.

Similarly, industry self-regulation and market forces should play a major role in the field of consumer protection, although internationally harmonized frameworks for dispute settlement are necessary, the statement said.

The participants also supported the current practice of applying no customs duties on electronic transmissions. At the same time, they opposed the creation or application of discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.

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