Ministry of Commerce finalises e-commerce policy

--PM to chair meeting on proposed law on Thursday

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ISLAMABAD: After an exercise of around two years, Ministry of Commerce (MoC) has finalised the policy framework for e-commerce and digital trade which it will share with Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Thursday.

According to Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha, the policy draft has been prepared after extensive work of various teams involving different stakeholders. “We will be presenting the draft to the PM on Thursday. A positive breakthrough regarding the promotion of digital trade is expected soon,’ he said.

According to documents available with Pakistan Today, the Draft Ecommerce Policy Framework was to be approved by the E-commerce Policy Board before its formal submission to the prime minister.

However, the finance minister who is also the chairman of the E-commerce Policy Board is on leave. Therefore the summary has been forwarded to the PM seeking his approval to chair the forthcoming meeting of the E-Commerce Policy Board.

The ministry has finalised the Draft E-commerce Policy Framework, on the basis of working group’s inputs.

On a reference moved by the MoC, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had directed the ministry to frame a comprehensive e-commerce policy after consultation with all stakeholders. As per the directives of the PM the ministry had constituted a National Advisory Council (NAC) on e-commerce and an E-commerce Policy Unit (ECPU) comprising all relevant public and private sector stakeholders.

Technical work on the various aspects of e-commerce policy was undertaken by smaller working groups.

Furthermore, the PM directed the creation of a policy board headed by the finance minister keeping in view the interdependencies involved in the policy formulation and implementation of the framework of the e-commerce.

Parameters of the proposed policy that have been identified by the PMO are availability and reliability of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platforms, development of supportive financial services regulations, regulatory framework, establishment and regulation of e-commerce establishments, conducive import and export regulations, taxation Issues, coordination, consultation, cooperation and oversight.

On the basis of recommendations given by the stakeholders, MoC prepared an action plan with following aspects: Enactment of national laws on consumer protection which may include provisions for seller protection, specifying rights, obligations, liabilities and penalties for both sellers and consumers, enactment of privacy and data protection laws including provisions for e-transaction to enable e-contracts, amendments in the foreign exchange regulations of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to facilitate cross border electronic transactions, establishment of dispute resolution mechanism for e-commerce, formulation of licensing requirements for establishing and operating e-commerce businesses, subsidising UST rates and other tax relaxations for e-commerce on products where sales are made on online portals in order to encourage selling online, provision of safe and secure platforms for financial transactions online, working group on e-commerce, World Trade Organisation (WTO) to constantly liaise with Pakistan’s permanent mission to WTO in order to assist them for the upcoming multilateral discipline on e-commerce, finalisation of the National Payment Gateway (NPG) for international transactions, simplification of import and export procedures and requirements and border measures and logistics arrangements for the purpose of facilitating e-trade.