India-US working group on ICT discusses investment climate, data governance

By: |
October 2, 2020 2:15 AM

Among the contentious issues being discussed were seven ICT products, including premium smartphones and smart watches, on which America wants India to scrap duties.

A senior government official said, “Such forums help in ironing out differences and handle complex issues of trade and policy,” he added. (Representative image)A senior government official said, “Such forums help in ironing out differences and handle complex issues of trade and policy,” he added. (Representative image)

Senior government and industry officials from India and the US deliberated on issues related to investments, data and regulatory reforms at the annual meeting of the India-US working group on information and communication technology (ICT) on Thursday.

Among the contentious issues being discussed were seven ICT products, including premium smartphones and smart watches, on which America wants India to scrap duties.

Sources said that senior officials from the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) met with US officials and industry representatives via video conferencing to talk on issues related to cross-border flow of data, privacy, certification and testing of ICT and telecom products, among others.

Google’s chief internet evangelist Vinton Cerf gave an overview on the importance of open cross-border data flows and forward-looking data governance policies for both countries. Nasscom gave an overview of the Indian tech industry in the US, including challenges and opportunities.

“There was a discussion from the US side on how to drive the next level of investments into India. Issues like increasing investments in electronic manufacturing and how to bring about regulatory reforms, including harmonisation of testing standards for ICT products, were taken up,” one of the sources said.

The Washington-based Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents tech firms like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Soft Bank, had said in a statement on Wednesday that its representatives would be joining the meeting, which it said was expected to address priority issues for the technology industry, including data governance, privacy, and hardware testing requirements.

It suggested taking up issues like safeguarding a company’s ability to move data across borders and eliminating requirements to store data locally. Streamlining processes and alleviating burdensome requirements related to testing and certifications of ICT and telecom products and reducing domestic content requirements for government tenders were some of the other issues flagged by ITI.

A senior government official said, “Such forums help in ironing out differences and handle complex issues of trade and policy,” he added.

Negotiations on the American demand for scrapping duties on seven ICT products witnessed sharp differences of opinion. India expressed its inability to abolish tariffs on grounds that it would only benefit third parties with far greater share in supplies to India (like China) than the US.

Besides, India is also finalising a draft e-commerce policy, which is an area of immense interest to the US. India has softened its stance on mandatory local data storage in an earlier draft policy, and the new draft suggests a comprehensive periodic audit of storage locations of players like Amazon, Flipkart and those that store Indian users’ data abroad.

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