15 countries sign trade deal without India

Daniel Fowler
November 15, 2020

New Zealand already has strong access to most other RCEP member nations' markets - through either the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) or the China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) - but no deal with India.

It was the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) that in 2012 initiated the RCEP negotiations between ASEAN and the countries with which it had then concluded free trade agreements, i.e., China, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India.

"We hope RCEP members will tenaciously encourage" India's return to the pact, which will contribute to strengthening supply chains encompassing the region, said Ken Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Foreign Trade Council.

RCEP, he said, could be an economic recovery tool against Covid-19 which would help to ensure opening of markets as well as uninterrupted supply chain.

Earlier this week, when asked if India will join RECP, Secretary East in Ministry of External Affairs Riva Ganguly Das said, "Our position is well known, as far as India is concerned we did not join RCEP as it does not address the outstanding issues and concerns of India, however, we remain committed to deepening our trade relations with ASEAN". Singapore plans to approve the deal "in the next few months", he said.

Members of the RCEP make up almost a third of the world's population and account for 29% of global gross domestic product.

The flow of goods will also be faster between countries, with simplified customs procedures and enhanced trade facilitation provisions.

As for concerns some have raised about benefits being tilted in favour of larger economies, like China, Mr Chan said the signing of the RCEP will bring about mutual benefits for both Chinese companies venturing beyond the domestic market, as well as for non-Chinese companies who want to enter China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced mounting pressures at home to take a tougher stance on the terms, and proved unbending as the RCEP negotiations came to a close. India, though, will be allowed to rejoin the trade pact.

"The RCEP signatory states will commence negotiations with India at any time after the signing of RCEP agreement once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to RCEP agreement to the depositary of the RCEP agreement, taking into consideration the latest status of India's participation in RCEP negotiations and any new development thereafter", according to the Ministers' Declaration on India's Participation in RCEP.

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Whether RCEP changes regional dynamics in favour of China depends on the United States response, experts said.

That challenge will shift to President-elect Joe Biden if, as expected, he's officially named the victor of the Nov 3 election.

Governments across the region have been negotiating travel lanes and bubbles in fits and starts as officials weigh health risks with economic needs.

Founded in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Japan is looking for the pact to be a catalyst for its post-coronavirus economy, Japanese trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters Sunday.

The report said RECP will take tariffs lower between member countries.

The agreement touches on intellectual property, but environmental protections and labour rights are not part of the pact.

"It's a chance to wrap up in one agreement that exist in several".

"We have all made hard trade-offs to advance the negotiations".

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