New Delhi: India has said countries must have the sovereign right to use their data for the welfare of people, and free trade advocacy should not necessarily lead to justification for the free flow of data.
It was stated by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal at the two-day G20 Trade Minister’s meeting at the science city of Tsukuba in Japan Saturday.
Goyal said that Digital India, Startup India, Aadhaar are some of the major initiatives in the country that promote economic inclusivity, using digital platforms.
He said that with growing internet usage domestically, an enormous amount of data is being generated in the country.
“This includes personal, community and public data, and countries must have the sovereign right, to use their data, for the welfare and development of its people. Advocacy on free trade should not necessarily lead to justification of data free flow,” the minister has said.
India has started the exercise to formulate a national e-commerce policy.
It has taken views of all stakeholders on the draft policy, floated by the commerce ministry.
The draft proposes to set up a legal and technological framework for restrictions on cross-border data flow, and also laid out conditions for businesses regarding collection or processing of sensitive data locally and storing it abroad.
Issues of privacy and security should be given due consideration in the debate on a free flow of data with trust, he said, adding that clarity on all these issues is essential before embarking on rulemaking on e-commerce.
“It is for this reason India does not, at this stage, support the joint initiative on e-commerce. We believe all nations should appreciate that the digital divide within and across nations is a serious impediment for developing countries to benefit from digital trade,” he said.
The minister said that capacity constraints in developing countries can be overcome, with the timely support of training, and the creation of digital infrastructure.
“This is important, for facilitating a level playing field, in the digital economy, for all countries to take equitable advantage of data free flows,” he said.
Developing countries like India need time and policy space to build the deepest understanding of the subject and formulate their own legal and regulatory framework before meaningfully engaging in e-commerce negotiations.
The 41-page draft e-commerce policy addresses six broad issues of the e-commerce ecosystem data, infrastructure development, e-commerce marketplaces, regulatory issues, stimulating domestic digital economy and export promotion through e-commerce.
Multinational firms and certain developed nations have raised concerns over the draft particularly provisions with regard to data.
Goyal said that given the persisting differences in the ground realities of various countries on digital trade, there is a need to encourage free and frank discussion on this important subject before finalising the international rule.
“India remains committed to engaging with all other nations to understand the subject better for the collective benefit of all nations and their people,” he added.
The e-commerce issue assumes significance as certain developed countries want to negotiate an agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Meanwhile, seventy-six WTO members have already launched talks on e-commerce.
India is not part of this.