In­dia not ready for e-com­merce rule-mak­ing at WTO, says govt

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In­dia is not pre­pared to take obli­ga­tions on e-com­merce at the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WTO) as its do­mes­tic poli­cies are still evolv­ing, the Com­merce and In­dus­try Min­istry said.

Ac­cord­ing to Sudhanshu Pandey, Joint Sec­re­tary, Min­istry of Com­merce & In­dus­try, “Our pri­or­ity right now should be na­tional rule-mak­ing. Be­cause e-com­merce is­sues are over-lap­ping and cross-cut­ting, rule mak­ing be­comes dif­fi­cult. We have a long way to go to reach the level of in­fra­struc­ture that de­vel­oped mar­kets like the EU have in place. We are not yet pre­pared to en­gage in in­ter­na­tional rule-mak­ing.”

Since July 2016, around 24 pa­pers have been sub­mit­ted to the WTO for ne­go­ti­a­tions on e-com­merce and coun­tries like Ja­pan have put out highly am­bi­tious pa­pers, push­ing their agenda.

A group of WTO mem­bers which in­cludes Rus­sia, Ja­pan, EU, Aus­tralia, Canada and Chile is try­ing to push for set­ting up a sep­a­rate work­ing group on e-com­merce at the WTO Min­is­te­rial meet­ing in Buenos Aires in De­cem­ber with the ob­jec­tive of start­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions. In­dia, how­ever, is strictly op­posed to it.

Elec­tronic com­merce was made a part of the WTO in 1998, but in a lim­ited way. Mem­bers had agreed to give a tem­po­rary mora­to­rium on im­port du­ties on dig­i­tal trans­mis­sions. This mora­to­rium is ex­tended ev­ery two years. It was also de­cided to hold dis­cus­sions on var­i­ous as­pects of e-com­merce, but there was no un­der­stand­ing on ne­go­ti­at­ing rules.

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