With China pushing for greater cooperation in e-commerce amongst the BRICS group, New Delhi will stress on keeping issues of micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) de-linked from online retail, at a meeting of the contact group for economic and trade issues (CGETI) of the five-member bloc in Johannesburg this week.

“This is first of the two CGETI meetings that South Africa will host this year which will be followed by the BRICS Summit. Since China has been promoting e-commerce at BRICS with increased fervour, New Delhi has to ensure that ambitions don’t rise in the area and countries are not forced to take on commitments under the garb of providing market access for MSMEs,” a government official told BusinessLine . The BRICS includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Together the nations represent more than 40 per cent of the world population and an estimated 22 per cent of the world GDP.

The CGETI, which includes trade officials from all five nations, reports to Trade Ministers. It proposes institutional frameworks and measures to expand cooperation on economic and trade issues.

China, which held the presidency of BRICS in 2017, did its bit to officially expand the scope of e-commerce discourse amongst the five countries last year. It played a key role in setting up of the BRICS e-commerce working group. While the agenda of the working group largely talks about just promoting cooperation and enhancing interaction amongst BRICS stakeholders on e-commerce, under the category head of research on e-commerce a number of market access issues have also been included. “China is eager to include all issues under e-commerce talks including participation of MSMEs, existing barriers to cross-border e-commerce among BRICS and regulatory and legal framework,” the official said. India is also resisting China’s attempts to include negotiations on e-commerce rules at the World Trade Organisation.

New Delhi will focus on the issues of cooperation amongst MSME, cooperation between service suppliers, business visas and a framework for curbing non-tariff measures at the meet, the official added.

There would also be discussions on development of e-ports to improve trade efficiency between BRICS, but it has already been decided that setting up such ports would be voluntary.

“Intellectual property rights is also on the agenda, but discussions are expected only on exchange of information on existing frameworks,” the official said. The CGETI in Johannesburg will be held during March 1-2.