E-commerce: RCEP nations talk details

July 19, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:34 am IST - New Delhi

Source code disclosure ‘curb,’ a worry

Sixteen Asia Pacific nations, including India, are understood to be discussing in detail norms on e-commerce as part of negotiations on the proposed mega Free Trade Agreement known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Incidentally, technical level talks of the RCEP are being held from July 18 to 28 in Hyderabad.

India has been opposing binding norms on opening up the e-commerce sector at the level of RCEP as well as the global level (WTO) talks on grounds including that it (India) is yet to have a comprehensive national policy on the topic.

However, it is understood that many RCEP nations including Australia, Japan and China, are pushing for inclusion of a host of elements for ‘Terms Of Reference’ for RCEP negotiations concerning e-commerce. This is with a view to have some binding commitments from the RCEP members on liberalising e-commerce and ensure that the final pact has a separate chapter on e-commerce.

According to Jane Kelsey, professor of law, The University of Auckland, developing countries, including India, should be wary of demands for absolute prohibition on disclosure of ‘source code’ (code behind the software) because lack of access to ‘source code’ will make it tough to prevent anti-competitive practices, hacking and rights violation.Ms. Kelsey also cautioned against demands for prohibition of ‘data localisation’ saying accepting such demands will lead to difficulties in ensuring regulatory control over e-commerce firms.

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