Away from e-commerce negotiations

Away from e-commerce negotiations : The multilateral dialogue on e-commerce between 76 countries (members of the European Union and 43 other countries) started earlier this year has increased the concern of Indian industries and policy makers. These arguments have been bolstered by the US’s exclusion of India from its GSP beneficiary list as a pre-emptive response, as well as the looming threat of H1-B visas, and India’s retaliatory efforts on India’s tariffs and subsidies. Experts and policy makers are apprehensive and skeptical about the dangers of not being involved in e-commerce negotiations. Even more uncomfortable is the scenario that the Western powers are continuously pressurizing India to join the negotiations.

The possibility of India being left behind for not participating in the ongoing negotiations is based on two main arguments. First, India will miss the opportunity for its role in shaping ongoing negotiations on e-commerce (especially in terms of the rules governing data). Second, if India decides to join these negotiations late then it will have to pay the price, which will be expressed mainly as being forced to accept the decisions of the negotiations.

Data centrality and usability

Data is in a central role in the era of digital revolution and has become a major resource that can lead to the rise or fall of a country. All digital technologies such as Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Robotics are dependent on data to upgrade their capability and intelligence. The question is, who creates the data? The greater the population of a country, the greater the amount of data generated, as well as the younger the population, the greater the data generated. In a comparative perspective, India’s 1.3 billion population is more than the total population of the OECD (which includes 36 countries), while 66 percent of India’s population falls in the age group of 15-64 and it is 18 of the world’s young population. Forms a percentage. This means that every minute huge amount of data is being created in India which is extremely valuable for the West so that it can create efficient digital products and services for the future. This is the main reason why India is under constant pressure to participate in multilateral e-commerce negotiations.

Data: Beyond E-Commerce

Should India really worry about being denied participation in e-commerce negotiations? The term ‘e-commerce rules’ is misleading because the rules on which negotiations are going on are not limited to e-commerce and it covers all the digital rules which are ambitious in the developed world. Are necessary for the fulfillment of the data and to ensure that their independent access to data will be maintained in future also. The current situation in terms of data ownership is that one who has the ability to collect and process data becomes the owner. Thus the data stored by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba etc. is owned by these super platforms, even if this data is generated anywhere in the world. Most of these platforms are noted in the US.


However, countries like China and India and continents like Africa (which will be the leading data sources of the future) have become aware of the importance of data in the digital world. Several steps are being taken by developing countries to establish their ownership of their data. China’s cyber security law is an exemplary law that incorporates provisions such as prohibition of out-of-country transmission of data, local storage of data, joint venture partnerships and source code partnerships. Many countries in Africa have started declaring ‘ownership’ on their data. For example, the Data Revolution Policy of Rwanda is based on the principle of national data sovereignty under which Rwanda has exclusive sovereign rights and power over its national data. It has decided to present its sovereign data in a cloud or in a shared environment in data centers inside national campuses or in a condition outside of Rwanda subject to agreed terms and controlled by the laws of Rwanda. It has also decided to create an appropriate legal, policy, infrastructural and privacy environment to offer data hosting services to governments or private data owners of other countries. Similarly, South Africa is also developing its digital industrial policy.

India has come up with a draft of its national e-commerce policy that will give it ownership over its own data and give the country an opportunity to process its own data and develop much-needed digital capabilities. If countries like China and India and continents like Africa emphasize ownership and local processing of their data, developed countries will lose control over a large repository of data created in the world and as a result of data processing and the creation of digital software and technologies Their competitive advantage will end. This is why developed countries are under tremendous pressure to move at a rapid pace and curb developing countries in the form of agreements that deprive developing countries of ownership and processing of their data. Clauses included in some trade agreements, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership- CPTPP for Trans-Pacific Partnership, provide substantial insights on the basic purpose of multilateral e-commerce negotiations.

Currently, it is being referred to as oil to show the importance of data. This means that the countries producing oil did not develop at the time of the first industrial revolution, but developed countries that processed oil and used it in their factories. Similarly, countries that create huge amounts of data will not develop digitally in the era of digital revolution, but countries that will process these in their data centers and use the data to develop software for digital technologies.

Status of india

India should maintain its sovereignty in relation to the ownership and processing of data. India is unlikely to suffer any loss from e-commerce negotiations. With a large population, a growing young population and strong IT skills, India holds a comparative advantage. Therefore India should be focused on establishing ownership over its data and developing its own data centers and data processing capabilities, especially excellent software that will enable India to develop digital technologies like its own AI, IoT. Simultaneously, there is a need to encourage Big Data analytics skills to provide better digital information base to key policies like industrial and foreign trade policy. In future, the national security of the country will also need to be highly dependent on digital technologies and software developed using the own data in the country. China has secured the use of its data and the European Union has taken the same step through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The conclusion

India continued to be an exporter of raw materials in the 19th century, on the strength of this material, Europe, especially England, made its industrial development. Similarly, in the 20th century, the sources of gold and oil spread in the world, their brightness shone there, gold With the help of many countries of Europe developed the market, the oil of Middle East came in the engine of Western countries. The 21st century is of data, countries like India are leading in the production of data but developed countries are ready to use it. These developed countries consider it the oil of the 21st century. Countries like India need not be afraid of not participating in e-commerce negotiations. Rather, what is needed is that India should try to localize this data so that the profit based on it contributes to the economy of India and not to make the western countries more prosperous.

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