Goyal, who is also the consumer affairs minister, told ET in an interview that his ministry is in talks with stakeholders and will come out with a robust set of rules, aimed at protecting the interests of consumers and promoting the orderly growth of e-commerce within the laws of the land.
Assuring the industry of government support against a possible surge in anti-competitive imports, Goyal said that large-scale stakeholder consultations are being done before India inks free trade agreements.
Responding to a question on the government asking ecommerce marketplaces to function under law, Goyal said that the government’s policy on ecommerce has been “crystal clear” and there is no scope for ambiguity.
Agreement on Public Stockholding
“After this level of clarity of what is intended within the law, it is very surprising that reputed companies have chosen to find ways and means to go around the spirit in which they were allowed to first come in and set up their marketplace operations,” he said.
Indian trade bodies have often accused American ecommerce majors Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart of FDI policy violations.
“The fact that an effort was made to stop questions being asked about anti-competitive practices, which is the Competition Commission’s mandate, on the grounds that an inquiry is already going on under FEMA by the Enforcement Directorate-two subjects which have absolutely no relevance with each other. The effort to stall the investigation for 18 months leaves a lot of questions on the table,” Goyal said.
The 12th ministerial conference of the WTO will be held from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva where India would press for a permanent agreement on public stockholding for food security and intellectual property waiver for Covid vaccines and supplies.
“India has been pushing for a permanent solution to the public stockholding on which we have a peace clause. But it’s important that WTO finalises all the elements of the public stockholding agreement and we shall be working on that,” Goyal told ET.
India has been arguing that its foodgrain procurement programme is for food security and should not be subject to the WTO rules on farm subsidies.
On the discussions on Covid medicines and vaccines, Goyal said any response to the pandemic will not be credible unless it includes a waiver from Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.
The minister said that India is open to engaging on WTO reform but would like to know more about the agenda on which the reform discussions will evolve.
“We are also very keen that the fisheries subsidies being used by certain countries indiscriminately, which is causing harmful fishing and depletion of fish stock, should be addressed in a fair manner recognising the spirit of the WTO, which includes recognising Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT) available for developing countries,” he said.
He said multilateral organisation should be run on the basic principles on which it was founded and consensus is one of them, responding to new issues such as ecommerce and the environment being discussed at the WTO.
“So we believe issues like ecommerce or digital trade should come into the working groups and should not be negotiated or discussed through plurilaterals,” Goyal said.