Former NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya on Monday said India should bargain hard for the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), but this should not become an excuse for not clinching the deal.
When an economy opens up, it has to set its house in order to compete, which brings the best out of it, he said.
“We need to be a little more aggressive. Compete with the best in the world. It brings the best out of you,” Panagariya, professor of Indian Political Economy at the Columbia University, said at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum in New Delhi.
He was responding to an observation by former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal that India needs to bargain hard in RCEP due to security concerns that go beyond trade. Sibal said China was pressing for accelerating negotiations for RCEP due to its trade war with the US. “China wants to dominate RCEP because it is the biggest economy. It did not play by WTO rules, so will it play by RCEP rules? Will there be a dispute settlement mechanism?” he said. Panagariya sought to dispel the myth that import substitution leads to less imports. “If you import less, you export less as well. When India liberalised it imported more, but then it exported more as well,” he said.
AI boost to health sector
At a panel discussion earlier at the same event, Panagariya said there was a huge scope for India to improve medical treatment by taking advantage of technical developments such as AI (artificial intelligence) and data analytics. “With AI, data analytics and all the technology there, treatments can perhaps be done better (in India) as we go forward,” he said.
By taking advantage of the technological changes such as AI and data analytics, India can bring good treatments almost anywhere in the country, he added. On the pricing issue in the medical industry, he said clearly this is being recognised in the trade agreements as well, citing that in some visible cases, prices have been negotiated between the companies (exporting and importing).
Panagariya said the health sector was still evolving and very informal as it was largely dominated by the private sector and the government’s role largely had been into setting up medical colleges.