RCEP: India says critical issues still need to be sorted out

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 31, 2019 Published on October 31, 2019

The country is working on finding a solution, says MEA official

Ahead of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders Summit in Bangkok, where most members, including the ASEAN and China, are pushing for conclusion of the free trade negotiations, India has said there are still some critical issues and efforts are being made to sort them to provide a fair and transparent trade environment.

“These issues are extremely important for our economy and the livelihood of our people. It is, therefore, imperative that these issues are addressed satisfactorily. India remains engaged to find a solution to these issues,” Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, said at a press conference on Thursday.

Not ready yet

The MEA’s comments on the RCEP negotiations could be an indication that India is not yet ready to seal the deal at the RCEP Leaders’ Summit on November 4 although it faces a lot of pressure from the other 15 members not to obstruct the agreement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to attend the summit. The RCEP nations include the 10-nation ASEAN, India, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

Although Singh did not spell out what the concerns were, she said the solutions to these had to be arrived at to safeguard the economy and the livelihoods of people.

The country, however, does not want to exit the group as is evident from Singh’s comment that India wanted to remain engaged to find a solution to the pending issues

India, therefore, may be looking for an extension of the timeline for announcement of the conclusion of the negotiations beyond November 4.

While the government has not officially made its position clear on the outstanding issues, sources close to the negotiations say that India wants higher safeguards to protect its industry and agriculture against a possible surge in imports following the dismantling of tariffs.

Higher safeguards

These safeguards could be in the form of tougher rules of origin that define what products should qualify as originating from the partner country eligible for preferential tariffs and a larger number items qualifying for auto- trigger mechanism that would automatically raise import duties if inflows rise above a threshold limit.

Singh said India had participated constructively so far in the RCEP negotiations.

Modi, who arrives in Bangkok on November 2, will also attend the ASEAN-India Summit on November 3 where participants will review the implementation of various agreements signed in the past. On November 4, the PM will participate in the 14 East Asia Summit and the RCEP Leaders’ Summit.


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Published on October 31, 2019
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