See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Economics

India rejects RCEP

15 other countries, however, will readily sign the agreement.


Written by

Updated: :45+00

India has chosen not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as the other 15 countries involved in negotiations for the mega trade pact said they are ready to sign the deal next year.

A statement released at the end of the RCEP Summit on Monday (Nov 4) noted that 15 countries “have concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues; and tasked legal scrubbing by them to commence for signing in 2020”.

It noted that India had “significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved”.

According to Indian media outlet NDTV, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during the RCEP Summit on Monday that his “conscience” would not permit him to let India join RCEP.

Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, a senior official from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters at a press conference in Bangkok: “India conveyed its decision at the (RCEP) Summit not to join the RCEP agreement. This reflects both our assessment of the current global situation as well as of the fairness and balance of the agreement. India had significant issues of core interest that remained unresolved.”

The decision has been widely welcomed in India, with Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala describing it as a “victory for all fighting for protecting national interests”.

Mr Le Yucheng, China’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking just before the RCEP Summit, said that “15 participating countries have decided to move forward first”.

“There won’t be any problem for the 15 parties to sign the RCEP next year,” he said.

“But we are also considering the concerns of India, so we are taking an open attitude. Whenever India is ready, it’s welcome to get on board.”

Even without India, RCEP will be the world’s largest trade pact.

The proposed RCEP involves Asean’s 10 member states, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – which altogether contribute one-third of the world’s gross domestic product.

Negotiations have been taking place since 2013. This multilateral free trade agreement, if signed, is expected to give a fillip to economic prospects of a region currently battered by the trade war between the United States and China.

New Delhi faces intense domestic opposition to the deal, out of concerns that an influx of cheap Chinese goods would decimate its infant industries.

Ten central trade unions in India had called on the government to withdraw from negotiations.

The Confederation of Indian Industry, meanwhile, called attention to the long-term opportunities of joining RCEP.

Confederation president Vikram Kirloskar, while acknowledging Indian fears about cheap Chinese imports and Mr Modi’s call for a win-win outcome in the RCEP negotiations, said “any decision of joining an agreement of this size and magnitude must not be based on our concerns with regard to just one country”.

Mr Kirloskar said in a statement: “(Free trade agreements) must be considered from their long-term impact, both on our domestic market and the access it provides.

“Some of our industry may be domestically focused today, but in 10 years would want the access to this most vibrant region of 15 other countries that RCEP provides.”

The conclusion of RCEP negotiations and growth of regional value chain facilitated by RCEP will give momentum to integration in the Asia-Pacific, noted the confederation.

“The general perception is that the importance of India is more as a consumer of final product markets.”

“But as RCEP progresses, and favourable tariffs and Rules of Origin (ROOs) kick in, India should become a major hub for coordinating regional value chains through itself – both as a major market for final products and as a location for third-country exports, primarily to the Middle East, Africa and Europe,” Mr Kirloskar said.

Meanwhile, some quarters have raised concerns that India’s exclusion from RCEP will leave the grouping without a “counterweight” to China.

Dr Chen Lurong, an economist at the Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia, told The Straits Times: “The real concern is how to keep China on the ‘right’ track – liberalising trade and investment, keeping market open, playing rule-based games.

“It doesn’t seem to me that a big Chinese economy with open-door policy and respect to the market disciplines will be a threat to the regional or global economy.”


JOINT LEADERS’ STATEMENT ON THE REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP (RCEP)

4 November 2019, Bangkok, Thailand

We, the Heads of State/Government of the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand, gathered on 4 November 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, on the occasion of the 3rd RCEP Summit.

We recalled our Joint Declaration on the Launch of Negotiations for the RCEP issued in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2012, as well as the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the RCEP that we endorsed, in which we committed to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement.

Against the backdrop of a fast-changing global environment, the completion of the RCEP negotiations will demonstrate our collective commitment to an open trade and investment environment across the region.

We are negotiating an Agreement intended to further expand and deepen regional value chains for the benefits of our businesses, including small and medium enterprises, as well as our workers, producers, and consumers.

RCEP will significantly boost the region’s future growth prospects and contribute positively to the global economy, while serving as a supporting pillar to a strong multilateral trading system and promoting development in economies across the region.

We welcomed the report presented by Ministers on the outcomes of the RCEP negotiations, which commenced in 2013.

We noted 15 RCEP Participating Countries have concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chaptersi and essentially all their market access issues; and tasked legal scrubbing by them to commence for signing in 2020.

India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved.

All RCEP Participating Countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way. India’s final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Economics

Internet healthcare serving homebound patients in China

Online consultations, pharmaceutical deliveries play vital role during outbreak. One recent rainy day, Wu Hong was waiting at the gate of her residential community in Wuhan, Hubei province. When a deliveryman with a bag of medicine came into sight, she was greatly relieved. Wu’s mother-in-law is a breast-cancer patient and needs to take medicine regularly. Wu’s father suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and inhalers have been in short supply. As the novel coronavirus epidemic grew more serious, Wu wasn’t permitted to take her family to the hospital for drug refills. She was left in a state of restless anxiety. On Feb 26, Wu and her husband saw a news segment on TV saying that the Wuhan government had enabled online reimbursement se


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

India’s Congress suffers setback after key leader defects to BJP

Move by Scindia and 22 legislators could trigger fall of Congress-led govt in central Madhya Pradesh state. The Congress has suffered a political setback following the resignation of Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 legislators in Madhya Pradesh state, deepening an existential crisis for a party that is struggling for political relevance in modern Indian politics. Mr Scindia, 49, an articulate leader, yesterday joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with legislators loyal to him expected to follow suit. The move could lead to the collapse of the Congress-led Madhya Pradesh government. That would give the BJP a chance to form the government in the Hindi heartland state, which is seen as key objective for


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

Chinese Red Cross teams aid Iran’s COVID-19 fight

Humanitarian group to help Iranians with containment measures that worked in China. Voices on the other end of the line cut in and out due to a poor phone connection as officials at the Red Cross Society of China’s headquarters in Beijing attempted to talk to staff members on the ground in Iran on Tuesday morning. As the signal stabilised, the latest developments in controlling the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in Teheran streamed into a conference room packed with Red Cross managers. Zhou Xiaohang, head of a five-member team-four medics and a Farsi interpreter sent to assist with COVID-19 control in Iran-said Iranians are increasingly taking precautions such as wearing face masks and washing their hands more often.


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

Shortage of Masks, Handwash due to panic- buying: Leave some for everyone

Despite repeated calls by global and local health experts and warnings from government, panic-buying grips the country. Global health experts have warned against hoarding masks, handwash and sanitisers during the coronavirus outbreak as it could worsen the situation by depriving those who might need them. Despite this, panic-buying of these products in Dhaka has been triggered by news of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. Across the capital, several pharmacies and superstores have been facing a shortage of masks, antiseptic liquids and sanitisers since Sunday afternoon. The demand for tissue papers has also almost doubled overnight, some retailers claimed. Many of the retail stores, super shops and pharmacies in Karwan Bazar, M


By Daily Star
March 10, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

MH17 trial in Malaysia begins today

It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. The trial will begin today. All eyes will be on the District Court of The Hague at the Schiphol Judicial Complex (JCS) in Badhoevedorp as the criminal proceeding against four men accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 begins. It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board, comprising 43 Malaysians, 193 Dutch nationals and 27 Australians, were killed. Members of the Malaysian media here to cover the start of the trial were given a briefing by press secretary for the judge, Yolande Wijnnobel, on what to expect at the start of the much-awai


By The Star
March 9, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

OPINION: ‘Righteous’ women

So who is this ‘righteous’ woman that would never dare join Aurat Marchers? ‘TIS the season to be righteous, or so many prominent Pakistanis on TV and social media along with the religious right would have us believe. Pakistan suffers from hypocritical moral policing at the best of times — in homes, colleges and universities, places of religious worship, and the workplace — but the trigger for the current frenzy is the impending Aurat Marches in many cities of the country. Given that these marches only began three years ago, one can only marvel at how rapidly they have gotten under the proverbial skin of their highly agitated opponents. Enough has been said and written about the wider context of the marches and why they threaten the


By ANN Members
March 6, 2020