Pre-mature for India to attempt rule-making in e-commerce:Ficci
   Date :18-May-2019
Business Bureau
Ficci recently said it may be “pre-mature” for India to attempt rule-making in e-commerce and the country must be extremely cautious in its approach as there is less clarity on the impact of such issues, in the backdrop of the WTO mini-ministerial here.
Developed countries like the US want WTO members to start discussing new issues like e-commerce. However, India is of the view that formal discussions should begin only after consensus is built on them. “As regards the proposals favouring WTO talks on electronic commerce, it is necessary to first thoroughly appreciate the implications of fast-changing digital trade, free flow of data across borders, infrastructure localisation, and many other such factors before discussing binding trade rules ,” Ficci said.
In view of the sharp ‘digital divide’, binding rules on cross-border data transfers and localisation restrictions may limit the ability of the developing countries to gain from building their national digital technological capacity and skills, as articulated by UNCTAD, Ficci said. In the absence of clarity on the impact of such critical issues, it may be pre-mature to attempt rule-making in e-commerce and thus India needs to be extremely cautious in our approach, it said.
In a letter to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, it pitched for continuation of the Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) at WTO for all developing and least developed members.
"To cite one specific instance, India still has over 360 million poor and as of end-May 2018, it had 73 million people in extreme poverty. So, we just cannot wish away the continued need for S&DT provisions for developing economies like India," the Ficci President said.
The S&DT allows developing countries to enjoy certain benefits including taking longer time periods for implementing agreements and binding commitments, and measures to increase trading opportunities for them.
Currently, any WTO member can designate itself as a developing country and avail these benefits.
Ficci also urged the government to utilise the ongoing mini-ministerial platform for creating alliances and consolidating support among member-nations to revitalise the multilateral trading system.
The industry body's President Sandip Somany said it will help in effectively countering attempts by some countries to dilute the importance of multi-lateralism and weaken the WTO. He highlighted the immediate need to resolve the impasse in Appellate Body appointments.
"WTO reforms cannot ignore the ongoing problems regarding appointment of new members to the Appellate Body. If the Appellate Body gets paralysed, it will seriously damage credibility of WTO," he noted.
Senior officials from 22 member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are taking part in a mini-ministerial meet here.
The two-day meeting provides an opportunity to the participating countries to develop a shared WTO reform proposal on issues of priority and interest for developing countries.
The meeting is being attended by six least developed countries and 16 developing countries, including China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Argentina, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Nigeria, according to a commerce ministry statement. The Director General of the WTO, Roberto Azevedo is also participating.