India will not take the initiative to re-open talks on its sensitivities with other members of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It will remain out of the grouping unless other members re-work the pact to its satisfaction, a government official has said.
“No bilateral negotiations are planned with RCEP members to sort out the areas of concerns. India has clearly stated all its concerns at the forum. If all the members get together and make changes in the pact and make an offer, the country could examine it. Otherwise, it stays out of the grouping,” the official told BusinessLine .
Following India’s exit from the RCEP earlier this month at the Leaders’ Summit in Bangkok, many of the 15 members such as New Zealand, Japan and China have expressed interest in talking to India to sort out its problems so that it could get back to the talks. The other countries in the group include the 10-member ASEAN, South Korea and Australia.
However, with India not showing much enthusiasm in getting back to the negotiating table and the other RCEP members not moving to woo it back, time may be running out.
“At the RCEP Summit in Bangkok, it was decided by all the 15 members that they would try to seal the deal by February 2020. It seems highly unlikely that India’s issues can be resolved by then,” the official said.
Wrangle over Rules of Origin
India’s biggest concern with the RCEP relates to the Rules of Origin (ROO) agreed to by the other members. New Delhi believes that the ROO are rather loose and would allow Chinese goods, which may be behind a higher tariff wall for a longer period compared to those from ASEAN, circumvent the duties and come into India via ASEAN nations.
“A strong ROO is absolutely necessary to save the Indian industry from a surge in Chinese imports as more than 90 per cent of the goods being traded with the ASEAN would be brought down to zero in a phased manner, starting next year,” the official said.
India has also demanded that the base rate of duty (for calculating tariff cuts) should be 2019 instead of 2014, as agreed earlier, as the five-year-old rates were no longer relevant.
An adequate Auto Trigger Safeguard Mechanism to prevent dumping and import surges was another of Delhi’s demands.