Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

Fair-play call in e-commerce

The new e-commerce policy, being prepared by a committee headed by commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, may seek the localisation of servers and reciprocity in market and platform accesses from global players.

By Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
  • Published 30.04.18
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New Delhi: The new e-commerce policy, being prepared by a committee headed by commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, may seek the localisation of servers and reciprocity in market and platform accesses from global players.

Officials said the interests of small and medium units needed to be protected in an online marketplace. Besides, online platforms of local players should get equal access abroad.

"E-commerce is now an issue in the WTO negotiations. Our policy has to be framed in a such a way that it is WTO compatible as well as reflects our bargaining position at the world trade talks," said top commerce ministry officials.

The Prabhu committee, which comprises officials from the ministries of finance, information technology, home and corporate affairs, is expected to come up with its recommendations in 5-6 months.

Last year, India had rejected fresh efforts by countries led by the EU, Japan, Canada and Australia to negotiate global e-commerce rules under the aegis of the WTO on the grounds that multinationals would get unfair market access.

At a meeting with WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo here last month, industry representatives continued to oppose e-commerce at the WTO, fearing negotiations will be one-sided in favour of multinationals and against smaller Indian start-ups.

However, certain sections of the Indian government seem to be having a rethink. With India already allowing market access to multinational e-commerce platforms, it will be better to negotiate for rules which allow a percentage of the e-commerce business to be reserved for small Indian entreprenuers and which will pry open global markets.

Officials said India could advocate the norms of the new national e-commerce policy to be incorporated at the WTO.

"We want the localisation of servers by e-commerce firms operating in India as the latter is a large geography. For a smaller country, a regional approach to server locations or even a remote server location can apply. However we feel India, China, Europe and the US would require localised servers," said officials.

"We need to protect our small manufacturers. We cannot have rules which allow, lets say Ganesha manufacturers in China competing with our craftsmen on e-commerce platforms. So, rules have to be made which force a certain amount of local content," officials said.

Another area of concern is how to encourage Indian e-commerce players to go global.