C. R. Chaudhary Attends 6th RCEP Inter-sessional Ministerial Meeting in Singapore

The Minister of State for Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution C. R. Chaudhary, attended the 6th RCEP Inter-sessional Ministerial Meeting (IMM) in Singapore on 12-13 October 2018. The Ministers from 16 RCEP countries met in Singapore to discuss a modern, comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among ASEAN and ASEAN’s FTA partners.

Trade ministers of 16-member RCEP bloc, including India and China, have urged all participating countries to continue to exert all efforts for early conclusion of the negotiations.

The meeting assumes significance as there is a tremendous pressure on India to conclude the negotiations as early as possible despite the fact that several issues pertaining to goods and services have yet to be agreed upon by the member countries.

What do you need to know about RCEP?

RCEP is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand).

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates. It also seeks to liberalize investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.

Greater access to Chinese goods may have an impact on the Indian manufacturing sector. India has already got a massive trade deficit with China.

There are demands by other RCEP countries for lowering customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.

Challenges ahead for India:

More developed countries such as Australia and Singapore are unwilling to accommodate India’s demands to liberalize their services regime and allow freer mobility of Indian workers.

The negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, among 16 Asian and Pacific Ocean countries, have entered a decisive phase. Most potential member-countries of the grouping would like to see a “substantive agreement” on the trade deal by the end of this year.

At a meeting in Singapore countries which still have issues with the outline of the agreements reached so far may be told politely to step aside and allow a smaller group to go ahead with finalizing the RCEP.

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