India did not succumb to international pressure for joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to save the interests of domestic industry, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal told BJP MPs on Tuesday.

In the first meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party during the Winter Session that started on Monday, the ruling party legislators were briefed by the Commerce Minister on the rationale for India quitting the RCEP, while Foreign Minister S Jaishankar made a presentation about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visits to several countries as well as his participation in events such as the UNGA and BRICS meetings.

Domestic industry

The PM himself was not present in the meeting which was chaired by BJP President Amit Shah and working President JP Nadda. Party sources said Goyal explained to the MPs that while India has opened up 74 per cent of its market, several smaller countries have allowed just over 50 per cent of their market to be opened for foreign players.

“India has maintained that we will not be a signatory to the RCEP unless our domestic concerns have been addressed. We are just one among the 16 countries who have not signed. We were able to take this firm stand because of our strong and stable leadership,” Goyal reportedly said in his presentation before the BJP parliamentary party.

The Commerce Minister is believed to have said that the other member countries of RCEP have conceded that India’s domestic concerns need to be addressed. He apparently said that the Congress-led UPA government had favoured joining the RCEP but the Modi government has reversed the decision in the country’s interest.

Foreign events

The External Affairs Minister, in his presentation, spoke at length about Modi’s participation in the United National General Assembly meeting in the US this September and the ‘Howdy Modi’ rally where he was joined by the the US President Donald Trump.

The Prime Minister’s participation in the BRICS and ASEAN meetings, besides his trips to Russia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Bhutan were also spotlighted, with Jaishankar telling the ruling party’s lawmakers that Modi brought the issue of terrorism to the fore and found support from most countries.

The minister mentioned the decision of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to accord their highest civilian honour on Modi.

Also at the meeting, the MPs were also asked to give details of the foot march that all BJP functionaries were asked to undertake to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on October 2.