Playing hardball with China in the on-going negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact, India has read it out a big list of demands for market access in both goods and services, including larger exports of drugs, sugar, rice, dairy, soybean, IT and other services.

In a meeting between China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen and India’s Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan on the sidelines of the on-going RCEP Ministerial meet in Beijing, New Delhi pointed out that a RCEP deal will be acceptable to the country only if it addresses the existing level of trade imbalance, a government official told BusinessLine .

“A firm decision has been taken by the Indian government that for the country to enter into an RCEP agreement offering market access to China, among the other fifteen member countries, it is imperative that all its demands in goods and services are met by Beijing. Otherwise, given the almost $60 billion trade imbalance and the resistance from the Indian industry, it would be difficult for India to accede to the RCEP,” the official said.

Trade and investment deal

Most countries in the sixteen-member grouping, which comprises the ten ASEAN countries, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, who are attending the Ministerial meet, are hoping to make official the tentative November-end deadline for concluding the trade and investment deal. But New Delhi, has held the position that it does not want to be hurried into a bad deal.

In fact, Indian negotiators have now started indicating that they may say no to a pact if they do not get what they are seeking not just in goods, but also in services where offers have been “disappointing”.

Read more:India may say no to RCEP pact if its demands on services, goods are not met

Wadhawan, in his meeting with the Chinese, demanded larger exports of products like pharmaceuticals, sugar and rice from India and also used the opportunity to push for some of the market access related to items such as milk and milk products, pomegranate, soyabean meal and okra. “He also used the opportunity to flag issues pertaining to Indian service sector including IT and ITeS and issues pertaining to easing business visas by China to Indian business travellers,” the official said.

The RCEP Ministers are expected to shortly issue a `media statement’ after the conclusion of their two-day meeting. The RCEP countries together constitute more than a third of the world’s GDP, almost half of its population and 30 per cent of global trade.