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|May 4, 1999||
India unlikely to adopt clear stand on E-commerce at WTO's Nov meet
India's negotiating mandate on trade in an E-commerce environment is unlikely to be ready for the World Trade Organisation ministerial meet in November 1999, N N Khanna, special secretary (WTO) in the commerce ministry, has said.
Khanna attributed this to the slow progress in this area due to the complexity of the matter.
India should ensure that trade through electronic media is properly governed through a comprehensive framework of rules, he added.
Khanna said such a framework would be in India's advantage largely because India had tremendous competence in the area of software. He also said trade in an E-commerce environment is a comfortable way to export technical inputs as the person concerned need not actually be mobile.
''Thus, India should identify issues that work in our interest and include them in the framework that is being currently negotiated in the WTO, and also negotiate to keep out provisions that affect us negatively,'' he said.
However, Khanna did say that there was a possibility, at least in the short-term, that countries like India would be negatively affected by the phenomenon of trade in an E-commerce environment. This was because E-commerce had affected the basic nature of many trade transactions, making them faster.
A developing country like India may not have enough access to systems to compete effectively in such an environment. In order to address such issues, a core group, comprising representatives from government, industry and other sectors, had been established to work out issues that affect India's competitiveness in such an environment with focus on preparing India's WTO negotiations mandate in the area of trading rules in an E-commerce environment.
Early last year, the US had led the developed countries in negotiating a standstill on import duty on electronic transmission, a proposal that did not meet with much resistance at the time.
India must now decide if it would like to negotiate for continuing the standstill, removal of the standstill, or for extension of the standstill for a finite time period. The problem with extension of the standstill would be that there would be pressure on India to agree to extend it indefinitely, Khanna added.
He said the WTO work programme for the framework governing trade in an E-commerce environment focused on four major elements: Definition of trade in an E-commerce environment Trade, in services and goods in an e-commerce environment (trade in services being the more major issue.
The issue of intellectual property rights in such an environment (specifically issuing of copyrights and related rights, and enforcement of trademarks) The developmental aspects of E-commerce (issues relating to growth of infrastructure, technology transfer).
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