Office of the Press Secretary
The invention of the steam engine two centuries ago and the harnessing of electricity ushered in an industrial revolution that fundamentally altered the way we work, brought the world's people closer together in space and time, and brought us greater prosperity. Today, the invention of the integrated circuit and computer and the harnessing of light for communications have made possible the creation of the global Internet and an electronic revolution that will once again transform our lives.
One of the most significant uses of the Internet is in the world of commerce. Already it is possible to buy books and clothing, to obtain business advice, to purchase everything from gardening tools to high-tech telecommunications equipment over the Internet. This is just the beginning. Trade and commerce on the Internet are doubling or tripling every year -- and in just a few years will be generating hundreds of billions of dollars in sales of goods and services. If we establish an environment in which electronic commerce can grow and flourish, then every computer can be a window open to every business, large and small, everywhere in the world.
Governments can have a profound effect on the growth of electronic commerce. By their actions, they can facilitate electronic trade or inhibit it. Government officials should respect the unique nature of the medium and recognize that widespread competition and increased consumer choice should be the defining features of the new digital marketplace. They should adopt a market-oriented approach to electronic commerce that facilitates the emergence of a global, transparent, and predictable legal environment to support business and commerce.
The report I released today raises a number of important issues that must be addressed by governments worldwide as this electronic marketplace emerges. I have had it added to the White House homepage on the World Wide Web (www.whitehouse.gov).
I call upon all Internet users -- both in government and in the private sector -- to join me in seeking global consensus and, where necessary, agreements on the issues raised in our report by December 31, 1999, so that we may enter the new millennium ready to reap the benefits of the emerging electronic age of commerce.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON