Enough political will to seal RCEP talks
India is ‘fully committed’ to take forward the negotiations for a mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to ensure that it is a ‘balanced’ pact that benefits all the 16 Asia-Pacific nations.
All the RCEP member states have expressed their willingness to constructively engage in the talks and have put forward revised offers in goods and services to negotiate a mutually beneficial outcome.
Currently the 19th Round of the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee meeting, at the technical level is being held.
What is Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP):
- RCEP is a free trade agreement that is being negotiated between the Association of Southeast Asian nations(ASEAN) and the six states with which the ASEAN has existing free trade agreements(Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand)
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia
Contentious issues that are being negotiated:
- India is pushing for liberalization of services, which includes easing norms for movement of professionals across borders for short-term work. However, India is concerned about the slow pace at which negotiations on liberalisation of services is progressing
- Some RCEP countries want India to open up the public procurement segment but India is not willing to undertake any binding commitment on this aspect. The government is keen to retain its policy space to ensure development of local industry and the social sector using the public procurement process.
- It is also widely speculated that the India-China border standoff will have an adverse impact on the trade talks.
Opposition to the agreement:
- Several people’s groups from across the country held demonstrations demanding a halt to the talks
- They claimed that the mega-regional FTA will adversely impact not only farmers’ rights but also access to affordable medicines, besides threatening the protections to India’s digital industry.
- The FTA will also increase the inflow of cheap goods into India from RCEP member states including China, in turn impacting the Indian industry and farmers
- Indian industry is learnt to have reservations against India undertaking any binding commitment to immediately eliminate duties on most traded goods, as part of the FTA ?
Tired of reading? No worries! We have audio format for you of the entire Daily News Analysis