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Big Techs, Policy Groupings are Hoping to Push WTO Moratorium by Two Years

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India’s stand on not renewing a World Trade Organization (WTO) moratorium on electronic transmission, is concerning for big tech companies and policy groupings, which are attempting to extend it by a further two years beginning with discussions from June 12 this year.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry claimed that India, including South Africa, made several joint submissions highlighting the adverse impact of extending the moratorium.

In the words of the Ministry, “India and South Africa have been making several joint submissions highlighting the adverse impact of the moratorium on developing countries and suggesting that a reconsideration of the moratorium is important for developing countries to preserve policy space for their digital advancement, to regulate imports and to generate revenue through customs duties”.

Due to the absence of a uniform method to assess the value of free email services, such as those provided by Google, Zoom or content over OTT platforms, experts fear countries misinterpreting the rules.

Industry experts believe it will showcase difficulty in enforcing the application of customs duty on a global level

Big tech firms are cautious that without extending the moratorium could be problematic, adding that there is no uniform method in assessing what constitutes electronic transmission without any clear definition available. Additionally, it could affect the country’s fledgling outsourcing industry.

The key issue is said to lie in the trade policy question, as in what type of transfer of information is captured. Does it go beyond streaming services into e-mail, transfer of data between two companies and include voicemail and phone communication in general.

Although attempts were made to define electronic transmission, the discussions were observed not to bear fruit. Words from the big tech alley say that not renewing the moratorium due to lack of electronic transmissions definitions is a short-sighted move.

Big tech firms indicate not a permanent move against the moratorium but an extension of two years when the next ministerial conference occurs.

Words from the social media street imply that a lifting to the moratorium to enable countries to interpret electronic transmissions differently and would in turn result in a mess of understanding who owns what intellectual property and whose rights are applicable where.

Different countries have different rules and regulations regarding how copyright claims function, besides having different rules on how intellectual property rights are enforced internally.

Industry experts believe it will showcase difficulty in enforcing the application of customs duty on a global level.

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