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India backs building broadband infra in LDCs

In a virtual meeting of the WTO’s General Council on COVID-19 trade-related measures last week, India advocated capacity building of developing and least-developed countries in areas like digital skills & broadband infrastructure. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that the developed nations want developing countries like India to negotiate binding commitments on e-commerce under the aegis of the WTO.

India believed that rather than negotiating binding rules on e-commerce as coronavirus pandemic has expedited the shift to a digital economy, it is imperative to first bridge the digital gap between developed and developing countries. It added that nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to high speed broadband and is deprived of the access to virtual platforms, tele-medicine, distance education and e-payments.

India went on to say that the push by some WTO members to seek permanent tariff (or customs duties) liberalization on a range of products in response to a temporary crisis seems to be a “thinly-veiled bid” to use the current crisis as an opportunity to gain market access for their exporters.

“Further, job losses in many service sectors have to be compensated elsewhere. Therefore, India, like many other developing countries cannot agree to permanent tariff concessions, and a dilution of the tariff bindings that we have paid for in the Uruguay Round,” it said.