India to form group of ministers to resolve issues regarding proposed RCEP agreement among ASEAN countries, FTA partners

New Delhi: The government will set up a group of ministers (GoM) to look into issues related to the proposed mega free trade agreement Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), official sources said.

The GoM will deliberate upon the issues being raised by the industry as well as government departments, they said.

 India to form group of ministers to resolve issues regarding proposed RCEP agreement among ASEAN countries, FTA partners

The flags of ASEAN members in the headquarter at Indonesia. Wikimedia Commons

The RCEP bloc comprises 10 ASEAN group members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

The first meeting of this group is expected to be held on 10 August.

The development assumes significance as the domestic industry has raised apprehensions about the presence of China in the bloc, with which India has a huge trade deficit.

India had trade deficit with as many as 10 member countries, including China, South Korea and Australia, of the RCEP grouping of 16 nations which have been negotiating a mega trade pact since November 2012.

The trade gap with China, Korea, Indonesia and Australia has increased to $63.12 billion; $11.96 billion; $12.47 billion and $10.16 billion in 2017-18. It was $51.11 billion, $8.34 billion, $9.94 billion and $8.19 billion respectively in the previous financial year, 2016-17.

An official from an industry chamber said that giving zero duty access to China would be led to flooding of Chinese goods in the domestic market and impact the manufacturing sector.

The pact, negotiations for which started in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in November 2012, aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.

Pressure is also mounting on India for early conclusion of the proposed trade pact.

Member countries are looking to conclude the talks by end of this year but a lot of issues are yet to be finalised including the number of products over which duties will be eliminated. Domestic steel and other metal industries want these sectors to be kept out of the deal.

Under services, India wants greater market access for its professionals in the proposed agreement.

Updated Date: Aug 07, 2018 08:03:05 IST