Impatient with a lack of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on the explosive growth of e-commerce, 76 members - including the United States, China, the European Union and Japan - agreed on Friday to start negotiating a new framework. India did not join the initiative. It has previously said the WTO should finish off the stalled but development-oriented \u201cDoha Round\u201d of talks before moving into new areas. \u201cIt would always be better if we had every WTO member in it,\u201d said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo. \u201cBut what is important also is that this group is open. It\u2019s an open-ended group, so any member that wants to participate in this conversation can join any time.\u201d China, which is locked in a trade war with the United States, signaled conditional support for the initiative but said it should also take into account the needs of developing countries, in comments likely to rile Washington. E-commerce, or online trade in goods and services, has become a huge component of the global economy. A WTO report put the total value of e-commerce in 2016 at $27.7 trillion, of which nearly $24 trillion was business-to-business transactions. On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, negotiators from the 76 countries and regions agreed on Friday to hammer out an agenda for negotiations they hope to kick off this year on setting new e-commerce rules. \u201cI\u2019ve said for quite some time it was unacceptable that by 2018 . the WTO won\u2019t have a deeper, more effective conversation about a phenomenon that is driving the global economy today,\u201d said Azevedo. Japan\u2019s trade minister Hiroshige Seko said his country hopes to use its presidency of this year\u2019s Group of 20 meetings of major economies to help accelerate negotiations. \u201cThe current WTO rules don\u2019t match the needs of the 21st century. You can tell that from the fact there are no solid rules on e-commerce,\u201d Seko told a separate briefing. China\u2019s WTO Ambassador Zhang Xiangchen said the e-commerce declaration \u201ccould have been better drafted\u201d but Beijing was still willing to co-sponsor it. Trade experts say the global trade rulebook is rapidly becoming outdated and needs to keep up or become obsolete. A recent study found that 70 regional trade agreements already include provisions or chapters on e-commerce. The WTO\u2019s 164 members failed to consolidate some 25 separate e-commerce proposals at a conference at Buenos Aires in December, including a call to set up a central e-commerce negotiating forum.