15 Asia-Pacific nations, including China, sign world’s biggest trade pact; India keeps out

PTI Singapore | Updated on November 15, 2020

Leaders and trade ministers of RCEP countries pose for a virtual group photo in Hanoi, on Sunday   -  AP

India had exited RCEP talks over fears on imports

Fifteen Asia-Pacific nations, including China but excluding India, on Sunday signed the world’s biggest trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with the hope that it will help them recover from the shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RCEP was signed after eight years of negotiations at the conclusion of annual summit of South-East Asian leaders and their regional partners, held virtually this year due to the pandemic.

The agreement, which covers almost a third of the world economy, will progressively lower tariffs across many areas in the coming years, reported Channel News Asia. After the signing, all countries would have to ratify the RCEP within two years before it becomes effective.

India, one of the leading consumer-driven markets in the region, pulled out of the talks last year concerned that the elimination of tariffs would open its markets to a flood of imports that could harm local producers. But other nations have said the door remains open for India in the RCEP, influenced by China.

The RCEP was first proposed in 2012 and loops in 10 ASEAN nations — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia — along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong said he joins fellow RCEP countries “in hoping that India too will be able to come on board at some point so that the participation in the RCEP will fully reflect the emerging patterns of integration and regional cooperation in Asia.”

Published on November 15, 2020

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