New Delhi: In a significant development, India on Monday decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, sources told news agency ANI. A decision in this regard was taken at the RCEP Summit today where PM Modi is representing the country.
The major decision from the India side came as key concerns were not addressed during the delegation-level talks. “There will be no compromise on core interests. The RCEP agreement does not reflect its original intent. The outcome is not fair or balanced,” sources told ANI.
The key issues which were not addressed during the summit include inadequate protection against import surge, the insufficient difference with China, possible circumvention of rules of origin, keeping the base year as 2014 and no credible assurances on market access and non-tariff barriers.
Sources further stated that India’s stand is a mixture of pragmatism, the urge to safeguard interests of poor and effort to give an advantage to India’s service sector and at the same time not shying away from opening up to global competition across sectors.
“Gone are days when Indian negotiators caved into pressures from global powers on trade issues. This time, India played on front foot, stressing on need to address India’s concerns over trade deficits and the need for countries to open markets to Indian services and investments,” sources said.
As per updates, the country during the summit also raised the unviability of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) obligations where India would be forced to give similar benefits to the RCEP countries that it gave to others.
“India stands for greater regional integration as well as for freer trade and adherence to rule-based international order. India has been pro-actively, constructively and meaningfully engaged in the RCEP negotiations since inception,” PM Modi said during the summit in Bangkok.
The development comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday attended the RCEP Summit, where the leaders of the member countries reviewed the state of negotiations which are ongoing in Bangkok currently.
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement among 10 ASEAN countries such as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Laos and Vietnam and their six FTA partners China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said that the Indian negotiators are resolving critical outstanding issues pertaining to the RCEP trade deal to ensure it is fair and transparent.
“There are some critical issues that are still outstanding; efforts are being made to resolve them to provide a fair and transparent trading environment. These issues are extremely important for our economy and livelihood of our people,” Secretary (East) in the MEA Vijay Thakur Singh said.
Earlier in the day, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the RCEP agreement will cripple the Indian economy and ‘flood’ India with cheap goods which will cost millions of jobs.
“Make in India has become buy from China. Each year we import Rs 6,000/ worth of goods from China for every Indian. A 100 per cent increase since 2014. RCEP will flood India with cheap goods, resulting in millions of job losses & crippling the economy,” he said in a tweet.
In the evening on Monday, Congress leaders held a meeting in the national capital to discuss the RCEP agreement and said PM Modi-led government’s dealings with the RCEP is like a ‘compounder operating on a patient’ in absence of a registered doctor.
Ghulam Nabi Azad said that both RCEP and GST were the schemes coined by Congress and were in progress but the Modi government implemented it badly in haste.
“The Free Trade Agreement and RCEP, we were not against it, in fact, it started in our time. The doctor had given the dates to the patient for operation and meanwhile, the doctor got transferred and compounder operated on the patient,” Ghulam Nabi Azad was quoted as saying by ANI.