RCEP members lure back India

Indiian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are underway with the crafting of measures to resolve the recent exit of India from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

During the Bangkok Post International Forum 2019 held on Thursday, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry deputy director-general Akihiko Tamura said that India some countries have announced to open India for negotiations.

“But leaving the door open is not enough,” he said.

“We have to be proactive in bringing India back in, and this has been Japan’s consistent position,” he added.

Tamura said that India “has significant outstanding issues that remain unsolved, but all RCEP countries will work together to resolve these issues in a mutually satisfactory way.”

He said that solutions to India’s issues are now on the table and up for discussion, and a resolution could be announced in the near future.

The RCEP—a free-trade deal among the 10-member ASEAN and their trade partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand—failed to be signed during a summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand in November amid India’s last-minute withdrawal.

India feared that the trade deal, which has been pending conclusion for already seven years, will hardly hit its manufacturing sector by cheap made-in-China products particularly in agriculture and textile sectors.

It also feared that it would worsen trade deficits that were already exacerbated by previous free-trade agreements.

The country is currently suffering from slowing manufacturing and consumption activities.

India has about twice ASEAN’s population and is currently the trade deal’s largest stakeholder after China.

The RCEP was meant to account for 30 percent of the global gross domestic product.

For K V Rao, resident director of ASEAN for the Indian multinational Tata Sons Ltd., said that members of RCEP should be flexible and open should they want India back in the bloc.

“The three most important factors for India when it comes to trade deals, are the figures and real number values of trade, the perception of the trade deal will create to Indian citizens and the politics of the deals for the top leaders,” he said.

“A trade deal cannot be a uniform one, so it has to be accommodative based on individual needs,” he added.

He cited an example where a previous trade deal between India and China led to an imbalance in trade and severely affected India’s manufacturing industry.

In the previous deal, Ganesh statues which were necessary to Indian festivals were already being produced in China.