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E-comm can’t be back-door entry to multi-brand retail: India

London: India on Tuesday said that it is conscious not to allow e-commerce to become an avenue for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the much sought-after multi-brand retail sector.

“There has been a lot of talk on e-commerce. We are conscious that e-commerce should not become a back door entry for multi-brand retail," minister of state for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman said in London. She, however, clarified that she is not “pronouncing any policy on e-commerce."

Referring to India’s largest e-retailer and its so-called Big Billion Day sale earlier this month which had led to complaints, she said: “Post the Flipkart issue, a lot of inputs have come from concerned citizens, retailers and consumers and these complaints are being looked into."

“That does mean any investigation is going on into any particular e-commerce company," Sitharaman added. “There is nothing promised on e-commerce at the moment."

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, who is also the minister of state for finance and corporate affairs, is here on a two-day visit to hold discussions with investors and members of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on the government’s newly-launched ‘Make in India’ campaign.

In reference to the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) controversial decision to initiate a review of India’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime, the minister dismissed it as a “pedagogic exercise."

“I would only look at it as an exercise to understand policies of other countries. India and its courts are conscious of our intellectual property rights and we hold on to defending everything that is due to us and we shall work and engage with the United States to explain our position to them but clearly we stand our ground," she said.

She emphasised the Indian government clearly understands its intellectual property rights. “The laws that prevail in India are very buoyant, vibrant, up-to-date and robust and that has been established by the various judgements that have come from Indian courts," she said, adding that a more definitive policy framework is being worked on and the government hopes to announce a new IPR (intellectual property rights) policy by early next year.

Sitharaman will hold talks with UK business secretary Vince Cable before heading back to India later on Tuesday. She admitted that various sections of the UK industry and government had made references to the retrospective tax issue as well as specifically Vodafone and the recent court judgement. “Our position has been very clear and we reinforce the view that we will not resort to retrospective taxation. At the same time, this government is working on simplifying the entire taxation framework completely and this will be an important tool with regard to ease of doing business in India."

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