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E-commerce to get bigger focus at RCEP talks

RCEP is a free-trade agreement between 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Subhayan Chakraborty  |  New Delhi 

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Discussions on is expected to have a significantly bigger footprint than earlier at the 19th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, which was inaugurated on Tuesday in Hyderabad.

“All member-nations have agreed to widen the scope of discussions on the issue and a list of tentative points to be deliberated upon have been drawn up,” a person familiar with the development said.

has resisted discussions on at the Organization but developed nations’ demands for talks on proposed global rules have become louder. However, if the issue sees significant traction during the negotiations, might have a hard time avoiding talks on the subject at other forums.

is a proposed agreement (FTA) between the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and six others with which this bloc has foreign agreements (FTAs) — Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand. 

had pushed hard for opening of services trade, especially on Mode 4, which deals with cross-border migration of services professionals. Other nations have started to make discussions on as part of those on services, the source said. Within e-commerce, issues like consumer protection, domestic regulatory frameworks, and data protection, among others, will be discussed over the next 10 days at Hyderabad.

Over the last few months, have poured in from headquarters in of increasing focus on among nations. An international grouping has been formed in this regard, composed of Latin American nations Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay, as well as Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Named the Friends of for Development, this group had also initiated panel-level talks with some nations also mooting the idea of making it part of the formal agenda for the upcoming ministerial conference in Argentina in December.

“Such groupings are cropping up fast,” Sachin Chaturvedi, director general of at think tank RIS, said. “Drawing from our experience at the last ministerial conference in Nairobi, it is imperative that start building coalitions on the issue as well.” 

Global giants are looking for an official route to tap the lucrative of the developing world, especially

Finalisation of RCEP, which had earlier targeted a 2017 deadline, is now expected next year because the member-nations are yet to agree on reduction for while discussions on services have hit a wall. 

While the members had supported finalising the broad contours of the agreement by the end of the year, a senior government official said most chapters on have not been comprehensively discussed. At the Hyderabad meet, members are expected to make their second round of offers on reduction. 

was earlier willing to offer reduction on 80 per cent of all lines, with a six per cent deviation, the official said. Under this scenario, may offer reduction in tariffs on 86-74 per cent of for nations, taking into account the gamut of with them.

Strong Pitch

• Developed nations’ demand for talks on proposed global rules has become louder
 
• Within e-commerce, issues like consumer protection, domestic regulatory frameworks, and will be discussed at RCEP
 
• Increased focus on led to formation of an international grouping composed of Latin American nations as well as Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
 
• Global giants are looking for an official route  to tap the lucrative developing markets, especially India

First Published: Wed, July 19 2017. 02:25 IST
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