Ahead of next week's East Asia Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) member states, which include the G-20 economies of South East Asia and East Asia want to see India join the trade bloc as a power to balance China.
RCEP includes the 10-member ASEAN (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and its six Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, South Korea and India); the group has been engaged in arduous negotiations in Bangkok and New Delhi over the past couple of months, the Indian daily The Economic Times reports.
India, keen to protect its domestic interests, will be monitoring the outcome of a trade ministers' meeting on 2 and 3 November in Bangkok to see if the regional trade bloc can be formalised on 4 November.
Though negotiations related to chapters of the proposed RCEP agreement are in their final stages, sources in New Delhi, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to take a political call as India tries to balance ties with Japan and China, and safeguard its domestic interests, the daily added.
On Thursday, senior Indian Ministry of External Affairs official Vijay Thakur Singh revealed that some critical issues are outstanding and added “India will wait for the outcome of the negotiations on RCEP.”
We will only participate in a fair and transparent trading environment," she said.
India has so far concluded negotiations on most of the 25 chapters. The rest are expected be concluded before 4 November, when Modi attends the ASEAN-FTA Partners Summit in Bangkok.
A key concern of most member states is the fear of cheap Chinese exports flooding their markets once the RCEP is formalised. Differences on matters relating to rules of origin, e-commerce, trade, and an auto-trigger mechanism to protect against a flood of cheap imports are being discussed by India and other member nations ahead of the summit.
New Delhi, in particular, is pushing for using the auto-trigger mechanism to check sudden Chinese import surges. It also wants to change base duties, the base year (from 2014 to 2019 to eliminate tariffs on around 1,000 products imported from China) and have strict origin norms to ensure that only imported goods get duty concessions.