Leaders from China and Southeast Asian states called for swift agreement on what could become the world’s largest trade bloc at a regional summit on Sunday, but new demands from India left officials scrambling to salvage progress. backed by China, have been thrown into doubt at the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok, Thailand.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not even mention the RCEP deal in opening remarks at a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders. The decision for not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is final for now, purely China driven but if the other countries agree to India’s demands, then negotiations and talks are possible in the future, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Monday announced that India would not be joining the regional trade pact since, the RCEP agreement, in its current form, did not take into account all of its demands to secure the interests of its domestic industries.
“If the 15 nations make a sincere effort to resolve our concerns, to give us confidence, and help us balance the trade inequality, then I think every nation should talk with their friends,” Mr. Goyal said . “We are not making enemies with anybody; relations are strong with all the countries involved.”
“But for the present, it is a final decision to stay out of RCEP and should the other countries come up with better offers which are in India’s interests, in the interests of India’s industry, and the people’s interests, we will discuss it with our industry,” the Minister added.
Mr Goyal further said, India would be open for discussions and negotiations if its demands are met, especially those that will strengthen Indian industry, give it more scope for growth, and open better markets without allowing an indiscriminate surge of imports and balancing the trade deficits that India has with the other countries.
The RCEP grouping was to be the largest such trade agreement, and would have included the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.