A day after opting out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal, the government on Tuesday said it was open to being part of the grouping in the future if it got favourable offers addressing India’s concerns.
“Every government is always open to discussions and negotiations, but at present, the final decision is to stay out of RCEP,” Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said. “Should the other countries come up with better offers in the interest of India’s industry and people, we will discuss it and do what is good for our farmers, industry, and the services sector.”
Goyal also said India was exploring trade agreements with the United States and the European Union to allow the manufacturing and services sectors to benefit from access to large developed markets. “We always talk to countries. The doors never shut for anybody,” he said, referring to RCEP.
He said reconciliation would follow if the 15 RCEP nations made sincere efforts to address India’s concerns, gave it confidence, and helped it balance this trade inequality.
“At present, the final decision is to stay out of RCEP...(We will) do what is good for our farmers, industry and services sector”- Piyush GoyalWhile the other RCEP nations have gone ahead with the deal after concluding the talks in Bangkok, they have also left the door open for India — the largest untapped consumer and industrial market. Negotiations, which started in 2012, will now culminate in a final deal being signed by 2020.
India had a long list of pending issues till Monday night.
Goyal said that of the 70-odd issues that had held up the deal, around 50 were India’s concerns. Prime among these is a proposed import cap for China and a mechanism to raise tariffs on Chinese imports if it crossed certain threshold.
This has been furiously refused by Beijing.
India’s hope of greater trade in services, which would have allowed cross-border movement of Indian information technology, medical workers, and teachers was also impeded by opposition from the Asean bloc and developed economies such as Australia.
Goyal also raised the issue of other nations pushing for 2014 as the base year for tariff reduction, while New Delhi had pushed for 2019. New Delhi’s demands for assurance on preferential market access to Indian goods in Chinese and Asean markets and removal of non-tariff barriers also proved difficult to secure.
On Tuesday, the Federation of Indian Exports Organizations (FIEO) welcomed the decision on RCEP.
“Duty-free imports from China, which has an economy of scale, backed by huge inventory, could have jolted the manufacturing beyond recovery and thus crippling exports,” said FIEO President Sharad Kumar Saraf.
Goyal blamed the previous United Progressive Alliance government for compromising its negotiating position during the RCEP talks.