Others will go ahead with RCEP without India: Shivshankar Menon

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 21, 2017

Former Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon warned that if India continues to maintain its present stance of not giving greater market access to China then the other member countries might conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact without it.

“I think the others will go ahead will RCEP. You are so frightened of opening your market to the Chinese that you are actually dragging your feet. It is very easy to walk out of the room, it is very difficult to walk back in,” Menon told members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC) here on Friday.

The next round of RCEP talks is expected to be held on July 24 in Hyderabad while the technical-level negotiations were held on July 18.

He said India’s insistence on asking for greater access in Mode 4 under services trade, which aims to open the jobs markets in the member countries for Indian professionals might let the other countries to sign the deal without India being on board.

The China-led RCEP was launched in November 2012 as a counter to US' Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. It is being negotiated between the 10-member ASEAN economies — Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei and six of its free trade partners — China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and India.

“If you look at ASEAN, you look at China and we are seeing now how 11 countries are going together to do TPP. So the Chinese are going to push for a quick RCEP and you cannot go on pulling out saying if you don’t give me Mode 4, if you don’t give me services, they will say we will go ahead without you. Problem is you do not have a coherent strategy for what you really want to do in terms of regional trade,” he said.

Menon’s remarks come a day after the Chinese media warned India that the ongoing military standoff between India and China in the Doklam region, close to the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction, should not impact the RCEP negotiations.

Menon, who is now also serves as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Chinese Studies, also said that the government took step in the right direction by asking China to maintain the status quo, as per the 2012 understanding between India, China and Bhutan.

“India is very clear in telling the Chinese to maintain the status quo, I think that’s a very logical stand … We know each other’s stand very well on the border issue. There is nothing new to be discussed in this. All we need now is a political decision,” he added.

Published on July 21, 2017
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