A strong reservation expressed by india about a “prescriptive” proposal submitted by the US at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to expand the work programme on e-commerce. The programme calls for framing trade rules for cross-border data flows, removing localization requirements for protecting personal data within national borders, and agreeing to proper coverage of cloud computing as part of computer and related services.
In a sharp response, developing countries such as India, China, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina expressed concerns over the underlying goals of the US proposal to expand the e-commerce agenda despite the lack of mandate from the members at this juncture. India said the US proposal was already rejected in 2011 and that its proposal is “prescriptive”. “We don’t want negotiations at this juncture,” an Indian official said, according to people familiar with the meeting. New Delhi maintained that it is interested in having a conceptual exploratory and experience-sharing dialogue without leading to any market-access negotiations. China said that while it would welcome the proposal on e-commerce from the US which recognizes the importance of cross-border flows, it is concerned that Washington had imposed severe restrictions on localization of services and data flows. Brazil agreed with India that there is a mismatch between what the US had proposed in its paper and what it is now claiming in its call for a dialogue. In the face of sharp divide, the chair of the CTS, ambassador Martin Eyjolfsson from Iceland, said he would hold more consultations to resolve the differences among members for pursuing the dialogue. Meanwhile, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Tuesday cautioned about “asymmetric access to major market places and e-commerce platforms may accentuate existing imbalances in e-commerce trade”. In its Information Economy Report 2015, the UNCTAD said “merchants in many developing countries do not enjoy equal access to these marketplaces” because of lack of access to e-commerce platforms used by Amazon and eBay, among others.