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Govt procurement portal asks sellers to specify country of origin

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The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s platform for online procurement of goods and services by government departments — the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal — has made it mandatory for sellers to clarify the country of origin while registering any new product. The GeM portal also has a ‘Make in India’ filter now to allow buyers to choose products that meet the minimum 50% local content criterion, the ministry announced Tuesday.

A senior official told The Indian Express that the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPITT) is also actively examining a proposal put forth by a group of traders that the ‘country of origin’ tag be made a must for products listed on private e-commerce platforms as well.

Senior DPITT officials are scheduled to meet executives of e-commerce companies on Wednesday to discuss the matter. The decision to ask for the country of origin of products comes amidst the Centre’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign, to promote locally produced goods. Several departments have since launched an offensive against imports from China, following the border tensions with the country.

State-owned telecom company BSNL has been asked to modify its network upgradation tender to keep foreign firms out and to make terms preferable for Indian suppliers.

As per procurement norms amended by the government earlier this month, suppliers are categorised into classes depending on the level of local content in their goods. The GeM portal now allows buyers to reserve any bid for Class I local suppliers, or suppliers of those goods with more than 50% local content. For bids below Rs 200 crore, only Class I and Class II (those with more than 20% local content) are eligible.

Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said they had approached Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on June 15 seeking that the ‘country of origin’ tag be mandated for private e-commerce platforms as well. “Mostly all e-commerce companies are selling Chinese goods in large percentages on their portals… customers are unaware about the origin of the country, which certainly influences their choice.”

E-commerce platforms said the burden of compliance must lie with the sellers who list their products on a marketplace, while the platforms themselves can continue to educate them on the need for displaying accurate and complete information about their products.

While emphasising that “our first and foremost focus is to be absolutely compliant with all Indian laws and regulations”, Amazon India’s Vice-President, Seller Services, Gopal Pillai told The Indian Express that various factors determine a customer’s choice. “We continue to look for ways to offer the most relevant and robust detail pages as provided by the sellers, and search capabilities to offer a seamless customer experience. Sellers are responsible for providing all the required information about the product they list and therefore we continue to educate the sellers.”

The GeM portal, which is a special purpose vehicle of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has earlier taken other measures to promote India-made goods. These include facilitating the entry of small local sellers in public procurement, implementing preference policies for MSMEs, etc.

Purchases through GeM by various users such as government departments, ministries, states, public sector undertakings and central armed police forces, were earlier made mandatory by the Ministry of Finance in the General Financial Rules, 2017.

Indian express

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