The government has set up a think tank to look into ways to encourage home-grown ecommerce players and develop a domestic policy to respond to doubts raised by other countries on India’s stance on cross-border digital trade, a senior official said.
“The think tank has been set up with the purpose to see what should be done domestically to take advantage of the existing situation in India’s ecommerce sector and what can be done in future,” the official told ET.
Led by commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu, the think tank includes officials from ministries of finance, home affairs, corporate affairs, and electronics and information technology, among others, besides representatives from telecom, IT and ecommerce firms including Bharti Enterprises, Reliance Jio, TCS, Wipro, Ola, Snapdeal, Makemytrip, Urban Clap, Justdial, PepperFry and Practo.
The group also has representation from Technology, Information Forecasting and Assessment Council which “will predict technologies that are likely to come in future and help the government decide the policy flexibilities needed to be put in place accordingly,” the official said.
Payments companies PayTM and NPCI, too, are part of the group besides a plethora of industry associations and a deputy governor from the Reserve Bank of India. “This is a comprehensive attempt. The idea is to get input from as many stakeholders as possible including e-wallet and card payment companies,” the official said.
A domestic policy on ecommerce is seen critical as a group of 71 WTO countries — almost half the membership and accounting for around 77% of global trade — have launched intensive discussion on ecommerce.
This group and 13 other delegations met for the first time last month in Geneva to move this initiative forward.
Many countries have time and again asked India for its stance on negotiating rules on ecommerce at WTO and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, but India has refused to engage in these talks. “We need to have a policy to back our stance,” said another official.
India has opposed negotiations on ecommerce on two fronts. It is waiting for its food security concerns to get resolved first. Moreover, it is against the rationale for ecommerce as a trade facilitating platform to become the back door for securing market access objectives, especially in the garb of small and medium enterprises.