‘Developing nations not yet ready to negotiate global trade rules on e-commerce’

Amiti Sen Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 13, 2016

Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry, South Africa

Scope for greater cooperation between BRICS countries in trade, science

The world is not ready as yet to ink common global trade rules in areas such as e-commerce, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies has said.

“E-commerce is a reality. There is no way to stop e-commerce; neither do we want to stop it. But from what I understand, five countries dominate 75 per cent of cross-border e-commerce. We (developing countries) are not yet in a stage to sign trade rules in this area,” Davies told BusinessLine in an interview.

E-commerce is one among the new issues several developed members of the WTO, including the US and the EU, want to take up for negotiations. Davies said developing countries first need to develop socio-economic models that would ensure all are benefited.

‘Non-inclusive’ model

“In the ‘winner-take-all’ model followed in many developed countries, many people are going to lose their jobs while some take all the profits. By getting into negotiations on trade rules at this stage, developing countries will be reproducing that kind of non-inclusive economic model where only a few would be benefited.”

The South African Minister also emphasised that although his country did not have public food-stock programmes, it supports India’s claim at the WTO that it has a right to maintain such programmes without being subjected to disciplines.

“It is a solidarity as well as a systemic issue for us. It is important that developing countries have the right to run public food-stock programmes. We don’t have it now, but we may want it later on. It is a tool we may want to use. That is the spirit we want in multilateral negotiations,” the Minister said.

On the need for BRICS countries to come together and work more with each other, he said the countries are already working together on a number of issues, but they could be more coherent.

Inclusive trade

Davies said the trade engagement among BRICS nations has significantly increased over the past few years, and there is a big scope for further enhancement. “Instead of blocking each other’s trade, we need to build on our complementarities. We need to have a discussion on promotion of inclusive trade, and develop a common perspective from a development point-of-view.”

South African Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, who is also in New Delhi to attend the BRICS Summit, said there is scope for more cooperation in the field of science as most of the BRICS countries have traditionally been collaborating with Western countries. “We have many commonalities, including common diseases. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be more collaboration between our research bodies. I think this will happen gradually, now that the governments are taking the lead,” she said.

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Published on October 13, 2016
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