It is reported that momentum is building for rules for e commerce under the WTO. India is both a hotbed of e commerce developments (Walmart has just gained majority control of Flipkart) and a heavyweight in international trade negotiations. Its role in scuttling the Doha Round is still remembered. But India is said to lack adequate knowledge to formulate positions on e commerce, except for one blatantly protectionist issue and one that poses significant challenges to implement:
Consider, for instance, one key demand by developed countries to make permanent the current ban on customs duties on ‘global electronic transactions’ that were suspended in 1998. On the face of it, this is a reasonable ask: if the ban is overturned, it would give countries the right to impose tariffs on downloads of mobile applications, streamed music from Spotify or videos from Netflix.
India is wary of this demand though, not because of its actual specifics but perhaps because it remembers the previous WTO deal on the Information Technology Agreement, under which it agreed to abolish tariffs on hardware. Policymakers feel that domestic electronics manufacturing got squeezed due to zero import duty on hardware.
Will a six-month effort by a “think tank” within government be adequate? Even if India figures out what it wants, how about the rest of the developing countries?