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New Delhi: The government on Tuesday decided to set up a task force to finalise the contours of a policy on the fast growing e-commerce sector, a top official said on Tuesday.

The decision to set up a task force was taken during the first meeting of the think tank on framework for National Policy on E-Commerce.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, commerce secretary Rita Teaotia said all the issues related to e-commerce including taxation, infrastructure, investments, technology transfer, data protection, regulations and competition were discussed. The think-tank was constituted under the chairmanship of commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu.

“The objective is to come out with a framework for an e-commerce policy," Teotia said. It was decided to set up a task force and sub-groups to deliberate upon all the concerned issues in detail, she said.

“The task force will come out with a set of recommendations which would be brought before the think tank in five months. The think tank will give its report in six months," Teaotia said. She said that a policy is important in view of the issues being faced by the domestic industry.

She also said that a detailed national policy on the sector would help India in articulating its stand on e-commerce at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Several developed economies including the US are keen on an agreement in the WTO on the e-commerce sector. India is participating in the ongoing technical negotiations on the issues in the WTO, but the subject is not on the formal negotiating table as the sector is at nascent stage in the country and developing countries want time to prepare themselves.

Prabhu said there has been an exponential growth of e-commerce sector. The domestic industry is going to grow and “we must try to promote it and for that there is a need for a policy". E-commerce firms can play a greater global role, he added.

Senior officials of various ministries and departments, representatives from industry bodies, e-commerce companies, telecommunication and IT firms, RBI and independent experts participated in the meeting.

Issues discussed included aspects of e-commerce, digital economy, physical and digital infrastructure, regulatory regime, taxation policy, data flows, server localisation, intellectual property rights protection, FDI, and trade-related aspects.

Trai chairman R.S. Sharma, who participated in the deliberation, said: “We need to have a policy which ensures privacy and ownership, security of data." He said that with new taxation system and digital transactions increasing, there is a need to have proper data policy.

“For e-commerce, digital infrastructure to flourish in India, we need to have robust connectivity infrastructure. Fortunately, we have large telecom players and 1.2 billion connections and 400 million Internet users, huge amount of data flow taking place. “But I think we need to have much more fibre infrastructure so we need to have wired Internet more and there are certain suggestions which we have already given to the government," he added.

Several participants emphasised on the need to set up a regulator for the smooth functioning on the sector.

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