India on Thursday rejected a push to set multilateral rules on e-commerce and decided to send a team of trade officials to the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva to find a permanent solution to the long-pending issue of public procurement of foodgrain.
After a meeting with WTO chief Roberto Azevedo in her office, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that though she is aware that many discussion papers have been floated on e-commerce, it should not be part of the agenda at the 11th WTO ministerial.
“I am ready to join the talks, but it is not part of my agenda for the upcoming ministerial. Because every country is having a big churn in e-commerce and technology is fast-moving. A final understanding on the matter is yet to be reached. Therefore, it will not be proper to regulate or define e-commerce at present,” she told reporters.
The next WTO ministerial is scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires between 11-14 December.
Earlier in the day, Azevedo said India is within its rights to oppose any proposal on e-commerce at the WTO. “Negotiations on e-commerce at this stage are very vague. There are 11 papers submitted on the issue. I myself am not very optimistic that we will solve very contentious issues such as server localization, data flows. I have not heard anybody talk about market access yet,” he said.
Azevedo was speaking at an event organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry.
He met executives from technology start-ups like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm on Wednesday under the aegis of India International Chamber of Commerce. When asked about the deliberations at the closed door meeting, Azevedo said representatives were generally curious about policy developments in the field of e-commerce.