India submits Formal Document Opposing Ecommerce Talks at WTO

India has submitted a formal document opposing any negotiations on e-commerce at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India has taken such stand for the first time.

WTO’s Programme on e-commerce and India’s Stand:

India has stated that it would continue the work under the Work Programme on electronic commerce based on the existing mandate and guidelines stipulated in programme on e-commerce adopted by the WTO countries in 1998.
WTO Reports

  • As per WTO’s 1998 e-commerce programme, member countries had agreed not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions. This moratorium on custom duties has been extended periodically.
  • However, since 2016, certain developed countries including US and European Union countries, are demanding comprehensive negotiations on e-commerce under which the temporary moratorium on customs duty becomes a permanent one.
  • US has come up with several proposals including lifting of ecommerce prohibiting digital customs duties and promoting a free and open Internet. China wants simpler norms for goods ordered over the Internet but physically delivered, whereas European Union, Japan, Korea, Nigeria and Singapore have specific demands in ecommerce disciplines.
  • India has refused to negotiate on these matters as it believes that it could have negative implications for domestic manufacturers. Moreover, it could also result in loss of revenue as more products and services get delivered through electronic transmissions.
  • It is particularly important for India to be cautious on these matters as India is home to a booming e-commerce market which is projected to reach $200 Billion valuation by 2026 (according to Morgan Stanley).
  • India’s submission of formal document opposing any negotiations on e-commerce comes ahead of the key ministerial conference of the WTO next week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • At this upcoming meeting, India may face pressure from many countries to begin talks to open cross-border digital trade.

Quick Facts about World Trade Organisation:

  • Formed in – 1995
  • Task – Regulation of International Trade
  • Headquarters – Geneva, Switzerland
  • Current Director General – Robert Azevedo

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