Australia says it has not written to India on e-commerce rules in the context of the Australia – India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement discussions.
In an e-mailed statement to NRI Affairs, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has denied Indian media’s reports that the Australian government has formally written to the Indian government expressing concerns about draft e-commerce rules.
“Minister Tehan and Minister Goyal had productive discussions during Minister Tehan’s recent visit to India. Those discussions are summarised in the joint media statement issued after the Ministers met. Australia has not written to India on e-commerce rules in the context of the Australia – India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement discussions,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told NRI Affairs.
Indian English daily, The Indian Express has reported that the Australian government has formally written to the Department of Consumer Affairs pointing out that the new rules would “impose extensive extraterritorial obligations on foreign e-commerce entities operating in India.”
The Indian government is introducing new e-commerce rules to tighten the regulations on online retail. The draft rules were published on June 28, and comments were sought from various stakeholders till July 21.
Indian Express has quoted an undated submission titled “Consultation on proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 of the Government of India” made to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, saying, “We consider the proposed amendments would be overly prescriptive and would increase trade barriers, particularly for SMEs.”
The daily says a copy of this submission and inputs submitted by other stakeholders for the draft e-commerce rules were obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information Act.
“We support efforts to implement rules that prohibit fraudulent business practices online. We note, however, that the organisation of flash sales by e-commerce entities is commonplace and a widely accepted international practice. In that regard, we would welcome clarification on how fraudulent interception could be determined in practice and what “technological means” might encompass,” said the Australian government in its submission.
Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Dan Tehan was in India recently. He had told the media after meeting Indian officials that e-commerce was also discussed.
Mr Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs and Food, and Public Distribution and Textiles, and Mr Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Government of Australia, have formally launched the resumption of negotiations on the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
“Key issues included the expeditious negotiation of a bilateral CECA, resolution of tax-related issues faced by Indian software firms in Australia, ensuring increased two-way trade and the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO scheduled to be held at the end of this year,” reads a joint statement by the two ministers.
India-Australia bilateral trade exceeded AUD24 billion last year. Major Indian exports to Australia include petroleum products, medicines, polished diamonds, gold jewellery, apparel, etc.; critical Australian exports to India include coal, LNG, alumina, and non-monetary gold. In services, major Indian exports relate to travel, telecom and computer, government and financial services, while Australian services exports were principally in education and personal related travel. In 2020, India was Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner and sixth largest export destination, driven by coal and international education.
Newland Global’s GM Natasha Jha Bhaskar says e-commerce is the new enabler, led by rising aspirations, smartphone penetration, affordable mobile data and supported by the adoption of digital payment platforms. India’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have only accelerated this surge in online retail.
“India’s e-commerce market is expected to grow to A$200 billion by 2027, comprising 300-350 million shoppers. Already, 88% of Indians access online platforms via their mobile devices. Growth in Indian e-commerce has presented an impressive opportunity to Australian exporters to enter, explore and expand in the Indian market, or test their products directly with consumers with minimal investment. An example of which is the Amazon India’s Australia store and the recent Blackmore launch,” said Natasha Jha Bhaskar.