RCEP : ASEAN Trade Ministers persuade India to speed
up talks on RCEP
Pressure is piling up on India from
other members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),
especially the ASEAN, to end its stalemate with China on market opening offered
under the proposed pact.
Trade Ministers of Thailand and Indonesia and the Secretary-General of the
10-member ASEAN group met Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in New
Delhi on Tuesday to discuss ways to speed up the negotiations so that the pact
is in place by the year-end, a government official told BusinessLine.
The RCEP, comprising 16 members,
including the ASEAN, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New
Zealand, was expected to be signed last year. Things, however, got delayed for
a number of reasons such as India’s reluctance to offer substantial
market access to China, disagreement between members over services offers and
new governments in some countries like Malaysia.
Finding a way forward
“The troika from ASEAN countries that met Goyal was focussed on
finding ways to move ahead in the negotiations so that the RCEP gets
implemented in 2019. The visitors were told that while India would do its best
in fast-tracking its discussions with other members, including China, it
couldn’t ignore the interests of its industry,” the official said.
The Indian manufacturing sector including steel, engineering goods and
automobiles, in its discussion with the Commerce Ministry recently, demanded
that India should not offer zero duties on more than 42 per cent of traded
items to China as most domestic producers will not be able to handle the
However, New Delhi has already tentatively offered to eliminate duties on
74 per cent items from China (and also New Zealand and Australia) as part of
the RCEP deal.
What has brought things to a stand-still between India and China is
Beijing’s demand that New Delhi should eliminate duties on more than 90 per cent
items from the country, as it is willing to do in case of the ASEAN, Japan and
South Korea, and is not ready to accept a lower offer.
“There will possibly be discussions
between Indian and Chinese officials in a bid to break the deadlock over market
access prior to the next round of RCEP talks in China later in July and the
meeting of Trade Ministers in the country early August,” the official said.
China has already hinted that other members should go ahead with a mega
trade pact if India continued to dilly-dally by proposing a free trade pact
between ASEAN + 3 which includes China, South Korea and Japan.
New Delhi is hesitant about opting out of the RCEP pact because, if
concluded, it would be the largest free trade bloc in the world accounting for
25 per cent of global GDP and 30 per cent of world trade, giving members huge
opportunities to expand trade and investment within the region.
www.thehindubusinessline.com dt. 10.07.2019