Reuters is reporting that Walmart communicated privately with the U.S. government in January of this year about India’s new rules for eCommerce, and how they would impact the company.
The newswire found the info through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and it found that Walmart called India’s policies regressive. Walmart also said the moves could hurt trade ties.
The consultation with the government didn’t change anything at the time, and India went ahead with implementing the new rules on Feb. 1. The documents do highlight the lengths Walmart went to try and get the government to intervene in India’s decision, as well as show how concerned the retail giant was about the decision. The eCommerce issues are a major reason relations between the two countries are in jeopardy, the report said.
“It came as a total surprise … this is a major change and a regressive policy shift,” Walmart’s Senior Director for Global Government Affairs Sarah Thorn told the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in a January email.
Walmart had just bought Indian eCommerce company Flipkart for $16 billion, which was the company’s largest acquisition on the global stage.
When asked by Reuters about the back and forth with the government, Walmart said offering policy input to both countries is something that it does regularly, and that the eCommerce rules were a “past issue and Walmart and Flipkart are looking ahead.”
In the letter to the USTR, Walmart asked for a delay of half a year on the rules, something that obviously didn’t happen. An Indian trade ministry official said that Washington presented concerns about the policy, but that India gave it a response that was non-committal.
Walmart has pushed through and worked around the regulations, and its shares are up 21 percent.
In the document, Walmart complained that the policy seemed to favor local players and discriminated against foreign companies.
“The purported rationale of such regulations is to protect small retail players who are seen to be threatened,” Walmart said. “This argument does not account for why there should be differentiated treatment between large foreign eCommerce companies, and large domestic companies.”