New Delhi: India decided not to enter the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after “clear-eyed calculation” of the gains and costs of entering a new arrangement, said external affairs minister S Jaishankar. “No pact was better than a bad agreement,” the minister added.

The negotiation went on till the end and India pulled out knowing what’s on offer, said Jaishankar.

During his ASEAN summit in Bangkok, PM Narendra Modi said the proposed deal would have adverse impact on the lives and livelihoods of all Indians. However, this is not a signal that India wants to step away from its Act East policy, the minister clarified.

“Our cooperation spans so many domains that this one decision does not really undermine the basics. Even in trade, India already has FTAs with 12 out of the 15 RCEP partners. Nor is there really a connection with our Indo-Pacific approach, as that goes well beyond the RCEP membership,” Jaishankar said.

The RCEP negotiations were launched by ASEAN leaders and six other countries during the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh in November 2012. The objective of launching RCEP negotiations was to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among the ASEAN member States and its FTA partners.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between the ten members of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

As China is backing the RCEP deal, India was worried about a potential flood of Chinese imports. According to reports, India placed some new demands which proved to be roadblocks to the materialisation of the deal.

(With PTI inputs)