RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has urged the central government to safeguard the interests of developing countries by opposing any move to continue the existing moratorium on imposing custom duty on e-commerce by the member countries of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The 13th Ministerial Conference of WTO is scheduled to be held between 26th and 29th February 2024 at Abu Dhabi.

"Since 1998, WTO members have periodically agreed not to impose custom duty on electronic transmissions of digitizable goods. The decision was taken at a time when e-commerce was in a nascent stage and its full potential in increasing the trade was yet to be assessed. Imposition of tariff on electronic transmission will be the first condition for success in the fourth industrial revolution to block the monopoly of developed countries and digital monopolisation by tech-giants," Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-Convenor, SJM said.

According to him, the current moratorium on custom duty on electronic transfer is extremely against the interests of developing countries in general and India in particular. "This is not only impacting job creation in the electronic sector, but also the revenue generation. Therefore, we strongly recommend ending this moratorium as also proposed by South Africa. If the moratorium is not extended by WTO members, it will lapse automatically. We urge the Government of India to use its diplomatic channels to let the moratorium lapse in this Ministerial," Mahajan said.

The organisation also wanted India to oppose any move to deny support to the country’s small fishermen through an agreement on eliminating or reducing fisheries subsidies at the WTO Ministerial. "The mandate to discipline fisheries subsidies came up in 2001 Doha Ministerial Conference which required members to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overfishing and overcapacity (OFOC), and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. At the MC12 at Geneva in 2022, WTO members adopted the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. However, it was to come into force only after two third of WTO members took the formal steps to adopt. Few members have deposited their instruments of acceptance with the WTO Secretariat but the desired number is yet to be achieved," Mahajan explained.

SJM wanted the government to oppose the developed countries suggestion for an exemption for low-income, resource-poor or livelihood fishing or fishing-related activities in developing countries operating within 12 nautical miles, with a limit of only 5 years for fishing in the EEZ. 

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