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Is India Fighting A Lonely War On Global Rules For Ecommerce At WTO?

Is India Fighting A Lonely War On Global Rules For Ecommerce At WTO?

Nearly 70 countries are supporting the US on a multilateral ecommerce mechanism

India is against this plan

South Africa and Saudi Arabia have supported India’s stand in WTO

In its lonely stand on global rules for ecommerce trade, India is stuck in mud at the World Trade Organization (WTO) where nearly 70 countries are supporting the US to have a multilateral mechanism for ecommerce.

The latest development has said that the Indian government had to drop a mention of the issue in a declaration issued after the mini-ministerial meeting hosted last week. Notably, only South Africa and Saudi Arabia has been supporting the Indian plan.

The draft, which had been dropped, reportedly talked about restraining from plurilateral agreements, where a group of countries and not the entire WTO membership came together for a deal. It is to be noted that the US, Europe, Japan and China have been seeking rules which will benefit the likes of Amazon, Alibaba and Uber to access global market.

With India’s ecommerce market set to reach $1 Tn by 2021, the Indian government has now launched its draft ecommerce policy to regulate the sector. It is however challenging the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its 49-member countries which are supporting trade regulations for ecommerce.

The WTO has been hosting discussions on ecommerce across the globe while at present, the Geneva Declaration has formed the basis of zero duty on electronic commerce from May 1998 to December, 1999. The Third Ministerial Conference of WTO at Seattle could not review the work programme relating to ecommerce.

Since then, no decision has yet been taken on the issue of extending the period of zero duty on ecommerce. And this is where clashes of opinions are happening in the global ecommerce plans.

Amid this downward trodden plan, at a recent G-20 meeting, even South Africa indicated that there is little support for blocking an international framework on ecommerce. The country has seen a large bloc from the African continent “beginning to see the gains” that may accrue to them.

However, this is not deterring India, as officials have reportedly said that the country is going to hold firm as very little benefit accrues to consumers and domestic players. The concerns for India raise as there is no domestic ecommerce policy in place yet and the free flow of data being sought by the US and Europe.

The Indian government is reportedly concerned that the architecture being proposed may force developing and least developed countries to lower duties and ease restrictions on services trading.

[The development was reported by ET.]