India in favor of promoting e-commerce domestically
India is in favor of promoting e-commerce, rule making for domestic e-commerce, developing an ecosystem to support exports and protecting the consumers’ interest. However, starting negotiations on WTO rules in e-commerce would be premature as the contours of this space are still in the dark, said Mr. Sudhanshu Pandey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce & Industry at an interactive session on ‘E-Commerce, Digital Infrastructure, Trade Rules and WTO’ organised by FICCI jointly with Centre for WTO Studies.
Mr. Pandey said that several countries were enthusiastic to negotiate multilateral rules to govern international trade through e-commerce. Such rules stand to hurt the interests of most developing countries, including India. India needs to think whether it was prepared to take on the obligations that would bind its stakeholders to an international policy in a sector, which was still evolving.
He said that since July 2016, around 24 papers have been submitted to the WTO for international rule making on e-commerce and countries like Japan have put out highly ambitious papers, pushing their own agenda. In such a scenario, India needed to safeguard its domestic market, which was small in size.
Mr. Pandey said that national rule making for e-commerce was also a daunting task as there were many issues which were overlapping in nature. Thus, the varied arms of the Government of India were trying to address the issues pertaining to their domain to help in formulating an overarching national policy for e-commerce.
Mr. Abhijit Das, Head, Centre for WTO Studies, said that though there were many challenges in starting international negotiations, but data flows, server and data localization, transfer of technology and mandatory sharing of telecom infrastructure were the keys areas which India needed to look at. He added that several nations were in favour of continuing in line with the Work Programme on E-Commerce approved in 1998. He added that India needed a harmonized approach at both the WTO and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).