RCEP talks: India wants different market opening offers for members

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on February 08, 2015

India will insist on giving separate market opening offers for goods to different members of the proposed regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) pact depending on its country-specific ambitions and vulnerabilities.

Proposal for cuts

In the crucial seventh round of talks beginning in Thailand on Monday, between 16 countries, including the 10-member ASEAN, India and China, New Delhi will also try to ensure that the ambition and time-line for liberalising the service industry keeps pace with goods, a Commerce Ministry official told BusinessLine. “We are supporting a proposal for cuts on 40 per cent of items in our initial offers. But we want country-specific deviations on the basis of request-offer with each country,” the official said.

Members of the RCEP, which also includes Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, are trying to stick to the timeline of concluding the pact by year-end. The ambitious pact, which includes goods, services, investment, economic & technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition and dispute settlement, is expected to create the largest regional trading bloc. India’s primary interest is in the services sector as it sees a lot of potential for its professionals in the markets of the member countries.

Reduced tariffs

RCEP countries account for 45 per cent of the world population with a combined gross domestic product of $21.4 trillion.

Deviations in the market opening offers will ensure that India gets to protect its market for different products from different countries where it faces threat — such as electronics from China and dairy products from Australia and New Zealand. However, it will have to offer market openings for an equal number of items for every member. “India, China and South Korea, in the last RCEP meeting in New Delhi, insisted on reducing tariffs on 40 per cent of their products as opposed to 80 per cent being pushed by others. We will continue to hold our ground in Thailand,” the official said.

Cautious approach

New Delhi is not comfortable with the idea of making substantial offers to China, Australia and New Zealand, as it does not have existing Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with these countries. The Indian industry is also wary about opening up the economy to China, which poses strict competition in a large number of sectors. India has FTAs with the ASEAN, Japan and South Korea and has already agreed to substantial market openings in those pacts.

In services, India wants to ensure that not only negotiations on services take place parallely with goods, but should be based on a positive list approach where only those sectors that are mentioned in the pact are opened up. This would ensure that it inadvertently doesn’t liberalise a sector that it did not intend to.

“We will also not agree to anything in FDI or intellectual property that will go beyond our domestic laws,” the official added.

Published on February 08, 2015
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