RCEP Commerce Ministers conclude last crucial meeting in Bangkok

PTI New Delhi | Updated on October 14, 2019 Published on October 14, 2019

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal (file photo)

The crucial meeting of trade Ministers of 16 RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) countries, including India and China, was concluded on October 12 in Bangkok, an official said.

They took stock of the negotiations, which are in the last phase, the official said. Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal attended the RCEP Ministerial meeting. This was the last ministerial-level meeting as only a few issues like rules of origin are pending for finalisation. There was no joint statement issued after the conclusion of this ninth ministerial meet.

The RCEP agreement is being negotiated among 10 ASEAN members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and their six trade partners -- Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.

Customs duties

The meeting assumed significance as certain industry, including dairy, have raised serious objections over the agreement. India is expected to reduce or eliminate duties on about 74-80 per cent of goods imported from China under the proposed agreement. India may also cut customs duties on 86 per cent of imports from Australia and New Zealand, and 90 per cent of products from ASEAN, Japan and South Korea, with which India already has a comprehensive free trade agreement.

The cut or elimination of these duties could be implemented over a period of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years. There is a plan for an auto-trigger mechanism, wherein India will have the option to increase customs duties if there would be a sudden surge in imports of a particular product, particularly from China, to protect the domestic industry.

As many as 28 rounds of talks have been held at chief negotiators level and no more rounds are scheduled. Some sections of Indian industry have raised concerns over the presence of China in the grouping. Various sectors, including dairy, metals, electronics, and chemicals, have urged the government to not agree on duty cuts in these segments.

India has registered trade deficit in 2018-19 with as many as 11 RCEP member countries including China, South Korea and Australia. The agreement aims to cover issues related to goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.

“This will be the last Ministerial before the third Leaders Summit to be held on November in Bangkok. The Prime Minister of India is expected to attend the Summit,” the Commerce Ministry had said in a statement earlier.

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Published on October 14, 2019
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