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RCEP negotiations: India may be given more time to sort out concerns

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on November 04, 2019 Published on November 04, 2019

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PM Modi and other leaders of RCEP to come up with statement that may have rough time-line for implementation of pact

India may get some more time to sort out its 'concerns' on the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact, especially those related to opening up markets for China, while leaders from the sixteen countries announce a substantial conclusion of the negotiations in Bangkok later today.

“Hectic negotiations between the sixteen countries is on. There is a likelihood that India will get time till February 2020 to sort out its concerns on Rules of Origin and its market access issues with China,” a person close to the negotiations told BusinessLine.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of the fifteen other RCEP countries, which include the ten-members ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will meet later in the day for a Summit meeting where they will take stock of the on-going negotiations and make an announcement on the way ahead.

Although, most RCEP members, including the ASEAN, were hopeful that the leaders would announce a formal conclusion of the negotiations in today’s meeting, but because of a number of unresolved issues raised by India, this does not seem likely.

The RCEP trade and investments pact, once concluded, could result in the world’s largest free trade bloc accounting for accounting for 39 per cent of global GDP, 30 per cent of global trade, 26 per cent of global foreign direct investment flows and 45 per cent of the total population.

“The leaders will make a forward looking statement on the RCEP pact using positive language related to its conclusion. The may also set a time-line for its adoption by all members,” the official said.

PM Narendra Modi has already set the tone for the RCEP Leaders Summit by stating during his departure for Bangkok that India will consider whether its interests and concerns in trade in goods, services and investments were being fully accommodated in the pact before agreeing to it.

Also read: India has put forward reasonable proposals for RCEP deal: PM Modi

While the government has not officially made its position clear on the outstanding issues, sources close to the negotiations say that India wants higher safeguards to protect its industry and agriculture against a possible surge in imports following dismantling of tariffs. These safeguards could be in the form of tougher rules of origin that define what products should qualify as originating from the partner country eligible for preferential tariffs and a larger number items qualifying for auto trigger mechanism that would automatically raise import duties if inflows rise above a threshold limit.

New Delhi is nervous about protecting the interests of its industry as the RCEP pact requires it to take on commitments for tariff elimination for about 90 per cent items from the ASEAN, Japan and South Korea and over 74 per cent from China (China is pushing for over 80 per cent), Australia and New Zealand.

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Published on November 04, 2019
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