Documents obtained by the news agency show that after Reuters reported in February that Reuters reported that Amazon prefers certain sellers and bypassed local laws (which require foreign e-commerce companies to treat all sellers equally), U.S. officials were eager to defend Amazon’s presence in India. Commercial activity.
E-mails obtained by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) through the US Freedom of Information Act show that US officials prepared a note from President Joe Biden’s special envoy, John Kerry, for the February 17 report. The statement contained in the February 18 e-mail stated that India’s antitrust watchdog has reviewed many allegations against US e-commerce companies and found no errors.
Biden’s envoy was former US Secretary of State Kerry, responsible for climate change policy. He is scheduled to speak with Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce of India. The email showed that the U.S. government was worried that Goyal would bring up the Reuters report, so if Goyal did so, he hurriedly drafted a description of the article.
Thomas Carnegie, an official at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, emailed an official in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative: “This may be raised on the phone, because you know that Secretary Goyal can easily raise the topic. “
Another official of the U.S. Embassy, Philip M. Ingeneri, also told the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in an email on February 18 that he had “verified” his relationship with the head of Amazon’s Indian government affairs. The content of the bill prepared by Kelly believes that the content is “true and accurate”. The emails did not describe what eventually happened during the call with Carey Goyal.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi raised issues with the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of State hopes that any issues related to the operations of U.S. e-commerce companies in India will be reviewed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Independence, transparency and professionalism demonstrated in the past. “
Spokespersons for Kerry, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and Goyal did not respond to Reuters’ inquiries.
A February report based on Amazon’s internal documents showed that the American company has been giving preferential treatment to a small number of sellers on its Indian platform for many years, circumventing the country’s strict foreign investment rules designed to protect small Indian bricks. Physical retailer.
This article provoked several weeks of controversy in India, sparking calls from traders to ban Amazon. According to a Reuters report, CCI said in March that the story confirmed its evidence against Amazon, and the Law Enforcement Agency, the Indian Financial Crime Fighting Agency, asked Amazon to provide information and documents related to the company’s operations in India. CCI enforces India’s antitrust laws.
In an email to U.S. officials on March 16, including in the USTR office, Ingeneri apparently wrote in referring to the February article that Reuters reporters had used “sensational language” and relied on Amazon in the “2018 Previously aggressive but not taken action”. It was illegal at the time. “The next sentence in the email has been deleted.
In response to a question from Reuters, an Indian Amazon spokesperson said the company did not comment.
Amazon previously told Reuters that it “does not give preferential treatment to any seller in the market” and “treats all sellers in a fair, transparent, and non-discriminatory manner.”
However, internal Amazon documents show that the e-commerce giant discounts its fees to certain sellers on the platform, and at the beginning of 2019, dozens of Amazon’s more than 400,000 sellers accounted for about three of the e-commerce site’s online sales. Two of them.
The note prepared for Kerry summarized the findings reported by Reuters. Among them: In 2019, colleagues advised Amazon executive Jay Carney not to disclose to the Indian ambassador in Washington that two sellers on Amazon India’s website accounted for a large portion of its sales. Amazon holds indirect equity in these sellers.
From 2009 to 2011, when Biden was vice president, Carney served as President Biden’s director of communications, and then continued as President Barack Obama’s press secretary. In an explanation to Carey, Carney was appointed as “Amazon’s senior vice president and former Obama administration spokesperson.”
An Amazon spokesperson said Carney did not comment on this article.
The note, under the heading “If asked: Amazon e-commerce violation allegations,” stated: “We have seen that the February 17 Reuters report has raised concerns about the practices of U.S. e-commerce companies in India, and Note that many of the allegations were previously reviewed by the Competition Commission of India, and no negative results were found.” Emails with remarks were marked as “unclassified sensitive.”
The note said: “The Reuters article repeats the previous allegations of the small businessman.” The partially edited note also pointed out that “Since 2013, Amazon has invested more than US$5.5 billion (approximately Rs 40,500 crore) in India. , Employs 100,000 Indians and supports 400,000 suppliers in its market.”
India’s strict foreign investment regulations on e-commerce have caused friction between Washington and New Delhi and frustrated US companies that have online operations in India, such as Amazon and Walmart.
CCI conducted an investigation into Amazon’s allegations that Amazon was in favor of certain sellers in January 2020, but the investigation has been on hold because the company faces court challenges. Another antitrust complaint filed by a group of online sellers against Amazon is currently awaiting review by CCI.
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