Bangkok/New Delhi (NVI): India has decided to not join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement citing non-addressal of its key concerns in the deal which include inadequate protection against surge in imports and insufficient differential with China.
In his address at the RCEP Summit here on November 4, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “When I measure the RCEP Agreement with respect to the interests of all Indians, I do not get a positive answer. Therefore, neither the talisman of Gandhiji nor my own conscience permit me to join RCEP.”
Citing the country’s farmers, traders, professionals and industries, who have a stake in such decisions, Modi said that RCEP, which would have been the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement, does not address satisfactorily India’s outstanding issues and concerns and in such a situation, it is not possible for India to join the agreement.
The Indian government was particularly worried that the agreement would open the door for cheap Chinese imports to flood the country and small businesses would be hit hard by it. India has been forcefully raising the issue of market access and tariffs, but the issues could not be resolved during the talks over the weekend.
Other key issues raised by India, which could not be resolved in the talks, included possible circumvention of rules of origin, keeping the base year as 2014 and no credible assurances on market access and non-tariff barriers, government sources said.
Later, in a tweet, India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said: “Prime Minister participated at the 3rd RCEP Summit in Bangkok. He conveyed India’s decision not to join the RCEP Agreement based on the current global economic situation as well as on the grounds of fairness and balance.”
“India had significant issues of core interest that remained resolved. PM highlighted that he was guided by the adverse impact it would have on the lives of all Indians, specially the vulnerable sections of the society,” spokesman of the Ministry tweeted. .
“India participated in discussions in good faith & negotiated hard, with a clear-eyed view of our interests. In given circumstances, we believe that not joining is right decision. India would continue to strengthen our trade, investment & people-to-people ties with this region,” the ministry tweeted.
According to observers, China was forcefully pushing for inking the deal during the RCEP summit as part of its attempt to counter-balance the impact of its lingering trade war with the US as well as to project the region’s economic might to the West.
The RCEP negotiations were launched by ASEAN leaders and the 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.