Even as India is not in favour of e-commerce to be part of the negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the recently signed India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) has a whole chapter on digital trade. It also has a chapter on government procurement, another area where the government has been very protective until now.
While industry bodies and exporters have expressed happiness over the outcome, experts warn that India's concessions to UAE may make future trade negotiations tougher.
"The elaborate chapter-wise classification of various subject such as Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Rules of Origin, Minimum requirements, SPS, TBT, Customs Procedure and Trade Facilitation, Trade Remedies, Digital Trade etc will be help in easy adaptation by the industry and will also eliminate interpretation issues to a large extent. This will lead to far better utilization of CEPA from India as well as UAE," A Shaktivel, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said.
"The places where we have breached our earlier position are problematic. Especially on government procurement, once you have agreed with the UAE, how are you going to prevent these issues from coming up in the other FTA negotiations that are in the pipeline? How are you going to tell the WTO that we will do it only bilaterally?" Biswajit Dhar, a trade expert and professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University asks.
The digital trade chapter covers areas like cyber security, electronic payments, digital invoicing, cross border flow of information, personal data protection, online consumer protection, digital identifies, authentication, paperless trading and domestic electronic transactions framework. The current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions between the two countries will continue.
On personal data protection, India-UAE CEPA says that both the countries recognise the economic and social benefits of protecting the personal data of persons who conduct or engage in electronic transactions and the contribution that this makes to enhancing consumer confidence in digital trade. It says that the both countries shall endeavour to adopt or maintain a legal framework that provides for the protection of the personal data of the users of digital trade. It also says that in the development of any legal framework for the protection of personal data, each party shall endeavour to take into account principles and guidelines of relevant international organisations. Further, it says that both countries shall endeavour to publish information on the personal data protection it provides to users, including how individuals can pursue remedies and businesses can comply with any legal requirements.
The government procurement chapter talks of national treatment and non-discrimination.
The agreement calls for promoting electronic information flows across borders subject to the laws and regulatory frameworks of respective countries. It also talks about open data and says that the parties should ensure that such open data is allowed to be searched, retrieved, used, reused, and redistributed freely by the public, to the maximum extent possible.