Bangladesh government should stand against a move made by a number of giant global data companies along with European Union to amend the e-commerce rules of World Trade Organisation for replacing the discussion option with legally binding entry in the upcoming WTO ministerial conference, said experts on Thursday.
Allowing companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft legally binding entry could ruin the domestic market of e-commerce and result in a decline in the government revenue, they said.
They made the statements at a seminar titled ‘E-Commerce & Domestic Protection: Issue of WTO Ministerial Conference 2017’ organised by Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh, a policy advocacy organisation, at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
Civil society members and rights activists were present at the seminar.
Experts also demanded a domestic protection policy for small and medium enterprises before introducing e-commerce in Bangladesh and urged the government to declare its position on e-commerce issues before the next WTO ministerial scheduled to be held in December.
EquityBD official Barkat Maruf in the keynote presentation said that the proposal and intention of developed countries on e-commerce issues were to transform the mandate of discussion of 1998 non-binding rules into mandate of bilateral negotiation and legally binding options.
African Union and least developed countries are strongly opposing the proposal as it, if accepted, would ruin the rights of the consumers throughout the world along with the security of personal data.
‘So, Bangladesh government must take position for our own safeguard and also needs to prepare to save small business entrepreneurs and people.’
Bangladesh Economic Association member Asjadul Kibria said, ‘Bangladesh needs strong preparation indeed in the WTO not to face the imbalanced situation further.
The WTO needs to decide first about the unsettled Doha round discussion on rules of origin and meaningful trade facilities before new e-commerce issue.’
Jatiyo Sramik Jote president Mesbahuddin Ahmed said, ‘The government doesn’t have any effective mechanism or institution for regulating the e-commerce sector for preventing market failures and protecting the consumers.’
Private transport service Uber is one of the examples at present that might be a cause of local unemployment and a headache for the government in future, he said.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry director Abu Naser said that the government should take the WTO conference very seriously and discuss with them along with other stakeholders for better preparation.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry director Fazlul Karim said that e-commerce was a premature action and initiative for Bangladesh, where the government would not be able to control unfair trade practices such as predatory pricing, tax dodging.
Therefore, the government requires developing legal structure for domestic protection regarding digital trade, internet governance and cyber security before the introduction of e-commerce, he said.
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