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WTO to negotiate new framework for e-commerce; India continues to stay off

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To address the lack of rules prevalent in global e-commerce space, about 76 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have given their assent to start discussions on a new framework.

The countries, who are ready for talks on new e-commerce rules, include the US, China, the EU, and Japan. Though, more than half about 88 members of WTO including India have decided not to join the initiative. The opposing members think the proposed negotiation would severely constrain the policy space of countries to develop their economies in the future.

We do not think the time is right for the country to take on multilateral obligations in the area of e-commerce rules, a government official was quoted as saying by BusinessLine. According to Indian Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan, Plurilateral initiatives will strike at the roots of the multilateral system.

He further said that India is in the process of framing our own e-commerce policy. It will help the country understand better the effects of e-commerce on competition and our overall economy. There is a need to maintain policy space in some aspects of e-commerce, said govt official.

India had earlier said the WTO should finish off the stalled but development-oriented Doha Round of talks before moving into new areas.

Meanwhile, on Friday, China, who was opposing binding provisions for cross-border data flow, has announced to join the initiative. As per experts, China’s decision may put India in a bit of pressure.

WTO representing 76 members said in a joint statement that it will seek to achieve a high standard outcome that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO members as possible.

E-commerce, in the last decade, has become a huge component of the global economy. According to Statista report, in 2017, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 2.3 trillion US dollars and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 4.88 trillion US dollars in 2021.

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