Ahead of the ministerial meeting of the World Trade
Organization (WTO) , India has made clear that it is not ready for talks to set
up a global regime for new issues such as e-commerce until its concerns related
to public stockholding and fixing earlier disparities in the global trading
system are addressed.
Earlier, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia had observed
that many of the new issues pushed by the developing countries like US are not
directly linked to trade. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said
some countries have a tendency to keep discussing new things instead of
discussing what is already on the plate. He said, “We want to keep it focused”.
India has consistently opposed the inclusion of issues
such as e-commerce to investment facilitation as it will help companies like
Amazon to enter markets like China, India and Brazil easily.Currently India,
for instance, does not allow business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce, prompting
companies such as Amazon to operate "marketplaces" with restrictions
on how much a vendor can sell. The government believes that several basic
issues such as the definition are yet to be addressed.
Explaining India’s position in clearest terms Rita Teaotia has said: "Our
position has been continuously that we will not refuse to engage (on new issues
such as ecommerce). We are ready to engage. Nevertheless, the technical work
must happen at the committee level. These issues must be thrashed out and only
when they reach a sufficient level of maturity, they can be brought to a (WTO)
ministerial. This is clearly our position."
JS Deepak, India's Ambassador to the WTO, said that unless India has its own
national policy on e-commerce and investment facilitation, "...we should
not be taking commitments in the WTO".
According to Prabhu, India will seek a solution to public stockholding problem
as it restricts its ability to support its farmers. Additonally, it will push
for reduction in domestic subsidy for agriculture in the developed countries
apart from more market access for Indian farm goods in other markets,
especially in the US, the EU, Canada and Australia. What will also be crucial
is the American government's stance as the advent of Donald Trump has seen
rising questions about WTO and free trade agreements that the US had signed.