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 Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

E-commerce firms have to adhere to country of origin norm by 30 September

  • Initially, the government was keen to make it mandatory to display ‘country of origin’ of products sold on e-commerce platforms starting 1 August, but online retailers have pushed back saying the deadline may not be feasible

NEW DELHI: The industry department has asked e-commerce companies to complete assigning country of origin tags to both new and existing items on their platforms by 30 September, in what could be a race against time for such companies.

“We have asked the e-commerce players to complete the exercise by 30 September," a Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) official said under condition of anonymity.

An e-commerce representative, speaking under condition of anonymity, said that DPIIT has mentioned the deadline only during recent meetings but has not sent any written communication yet.

“Though the government would like it to be sooner than later, I doubt 30 September deadline is practical. For new listings it is possible, but for old listings much more time is required," the e-commerce representative said.

"Some trade bodies have written that companies would need 6-7 months. Some companies have written back saying for legacy listings it will be impossible to meet the deadline as in a physical lockdown, it is no possible to access the goods physically and check country of origin in the packet. We want it to do be done quickly but it is the sellers who have to do it not the platforms. The problem is the sellers are not in those meetings though they have to do 90% of the work," the person said.

Initially, the government was keen to make it mandatory to display ‘country of origin’ of products sold on e-commerce platforms starting 1 August, but online retailers have pushed back saying the deadline may not be feasible.

Country of origin refers to the country where the item is produced irrespective of the point of shipping. For example, if a Chinese produced mobile handset is shipped via Vietnam to India, the country of origin will still remain China not Thailand.

The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal, which is used by government departments for public procurement, has also made it mandatory for sellers to enter the “country of origin" while registering all new products.

Some e-commerce platforms had started displaying names of two to three countries as country of origin to factor in components sourced from different countries. However, the e-commerce representative said DPIIT has clarified that sellers have to display only the country of manufacture of the final product as the country of origin for the product.

As part of its Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan plank to achieve self-reliance, India also seeks to reduce its over $50 billion trade deficit with China. Though mandating ‘country of origin’ is not openly targeted against China, the government seems to be riding on the growing sentiment in the country against Chinese products amid the ongoing face-off between the two Asian giants along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Chinese imports and investments have been facing intense scrutiny in India after a tense border standoff that left 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops dead.

The DPIIT in April notified changes in its foreign direct investment (FDI) policy by mandating government clearance for all FDI inflows from countries with whom it shares land borders. India has barred 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, on national security grounds.The government last month also restricted bidders from China from participating in tenders for government procurement without approval from competent authorities on the ground of defence and national security.

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