India apprehensive about EU proposal on e-com rules at WTO

10 May '19
3 min read

India’s permanent representative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) J S Deepak has conveyed New Delhi’s reservations to the world body over the European Union’s (EU) proposal to create new e-commerce rules, arguing that the proposed high standards could decimate the WTO goods and services tariff rules, impacting its domestic industry and job creation.

Deepak, who was addressing the informal Trade Negotiations Committee of the Heads of Delegates recently, said most developing countries including India are not ready for binding rules in e-commerce, according to Indian media reports.

“We fear the impact of some of the e-commerce rules being proposed under the Joint Initiative on e-commerce, on existing trade rules, particularly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) tariffs, which protect our industry, and General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) schedules that provide us useful flexibilities. Both the GATT and GATS could wither away due to the onslaught of the so-called ‘high standard’ e-commerce elements," he said.

The EU, the United States, Japan and China are among 76 WTO members that launched negotiations to set future rules and obligations in e-commerce in January at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

India has opposed any such move to set e-commerce rules outside the ambit of WTO and has insisted that the current multilateral programme on e-commerce under WTO should be taken to its logical conclusion.

The EU last week made public the text of its initial negotiating proposals for e-commerce that include tackling barriers that prevent cross-border sales today; addressing forced data localization requirements, while ensuring protection of personal data; prohibiting mandatory source code disclosure requirements; and permanently banning customs duties on electronic transmissions, among others.

India is currently drafting a national e-commerce policy, which seeks to use India’s data for its own development rather than allow its value to be appropriated by others.

“It also proposes to preserve our flexibility of imposing customs duty on electronic transmissions to protect domestic industry and leverage technology for creating jobs and wealth, by ensuring competition and a level playing field. We are also keen to assess the extent of sacrifice of revenue involved, and the distribution of this loss among Members, when new technologies like additive manufacturing will result in electronic transmissions cascading and many dutiable goods being manufactured by digital printing," Deepak said in his statement.

While the EU’s e-commerce proposal will be discussed along with proposals from other participating countries on May 13-15 in Geneva, India will organise an informal WTO ministerial meeting of select developing countries on May 13-14 in New Delhi to finalise a Delhi Declaration on development and WTO reforms, including on e-commerce. (DS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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