India’s long-pending demand to be included as a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade body, will be taken for discussion at the coming APEC summit to be held in Manila from November 15-18, according to Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia.
Rudd, who is also heading the APEC Task Force, said it was“fundamentally important” to include India into the APEC membership, even as he highlighted that the step should have been taken long back.
“We wonder how we managed in APEC without India for the last 25 years. The time has come to turn this around … The membership was closed all this while. Now, applications for new membership will be considered. The APEC summit in November is now going to consider all applications. Besides India, other countries will also be considered — Myanmar, Laos and Latin American countries,” Rudd said here on Wednesday after the meeting of the APEC Task Force that took place under the aegis of the Confederation of Indian Industry and Asia Society.
According to Rudd, APEC membership is about financial integration, bringing regulatory coherence among all the APEC economies. Since the grouping is not about market access and trade negotiations resulting in tariff impositions, there should not be any reservation in India in the domestic front to join the pact. Presently, APEC has 21 members — Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, US and Vietnam — comprising 60 per cent of the global gross domestic product, 50 per cent of world trade and accounting for 50 per cent of foreign capital flows. “APEC is the missing link in our ‘Act East’ policy.
Membership to APEC will assert the fact that India is an important APEC economy. Obviously, there is a transition period and it will not happen overnight. Of course, there has to be some painful decision making but APEC is business oriented and aspirational,” highlighted Shyam Saran, co-chair of the APEC Task Force and chairman, Research and Information System for Developing Countries or RIS. Saran added since APEC was about setting benchmarks, India needs to improve its standards of goods and services exports across the board. “It is time for India to become a member of APEC. Some diplomatic and political work remains to make this a reality. I believe that India can leverage regional economic integration to unleash the full potential of its economy,” said Sung-Hwan Kim, former minister of foreign affairs and trade, Korea, and member APEC Task Force.