RCEP Ultimatum : Cut Tariffs or Leave FTA talks

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The members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have, in a sort of ultimatum, asked India to either to consent to eliminate tariffs on most products quickly or leave the talks on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that is being negotiated by RCEP itself.

Background

The members of RCEP, a trading bloc consisting of 16 Asia Pacific countries, are irked by what they think as India’s obstructionist, defensive and half-hearted approach” that is “delaying” the result of the talks. They have said that 12th round of RCEP talks, that is going to be held during April 23-29 at Perth in Australia, could be a “turning point” in negotiation with India.

RCEP members, particularly China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand, were upset over India’s protectionist stance, concentrating only on the export of manpower and not on liberalizing trade in goods and other services as well as investment.

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Demand of RCEP Member Nations

Some member countries, particularly 10- members ASEAN bloc, want India to take a long-term approach and consent to eliminate deities (except in agriculture and industrial goods) on a higher threshold within a decade to help India get the benefit of the opportunities arising out of Global Value Chain.

What is RCEP

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is among the three mega FTAs in the world so far. The other two are TTP-Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US and the TTIP- Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between US and European Union (EU).

The Foreign Trade Agreement (FTA) is proposed between the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprising Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs which include Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

It was in November 2012 that RCEP negotiations were officially initiated at the Summit in Cambodia. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is considered as an alternation to the TPP agreement that incorporates the United States but leaves out China.

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