National e-commerce policy & legal framework must: Govt

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday made a case for a national e-commerce policy and a related consolidated legal framework to address the challenges of the sector and realise the opportunities in the global business-to-consumer (B2C) space.
"Most important for us at this point of time as policy-makers and also as stakeholders who are at the receiving end... We do not have a national e-commerce policy and we do not have a consolidated legal framework to deal with it.
"So if we look at the e-commerce...we do need a broad policy that looks at the broad elements, that we will use to realise the opportunities," Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said addressing a workshop on e-commerce here.
She said Department of Commerce was grappling with the issue of who owns the B2C e-commerce space as within the government, there are multiple policy-makers and regulators like departments of IT, industrial policy, revenue, posts, and RBI.
"So there are a fairly large number of players in the government itself...and all of them need to come on the same page," Teaotia said.
She said India first needs to ensure readiness of its own companies for accessing global markets before talking about rule-making on the global front, observing that there are differences in the definition of MSME in the US, Germany and India.
"The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is not a talk shop unlike the United Nations and UNCTAD. When you go to WTO you are talking about global rules for trade and when you talk about global rules you have to be ready.
"This is not lightly done.. getting very excited about MSMEs on the global rule-making platform is unwise unless you know you are comparing apples to apples," Teaotia said.
She said one has to be realistic while pegging aspirations considering the scale of business that the country's MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) sector does.
"Of course we want to engage, of course we want to talk about it but we will not commit until we are domestically ready and our companies are ready to face the global challenges," she added.
Teaotia noted that India is at 83rd spot out of 144 countries ranked by UNCTAD in B2C e-commerce space.
She said the department of commerce wants to look at export opportunities from B2C e-commerce sector, which accounts for $500 million or 0.19 per cent of India's total exports.
The secretary pointed out that India's low internet penetration at 33 per cent as compared to developed economies remains a challenge for the sector.
Moreover, the vast urban-rural divide, inefficient delivery infrastructure in rural areas, power supply issues and the financial inclusion also need to be looked into.
She said the banking sector has to rise to the challenge of achieving deeper financial penetration. Owing to these challenges, Teaotia said, India stands at the lowest end of the global digital divide.
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