In­dian, Chi­nese of­fi­cials hold di­a­logue to break dead­lock in RCEP trade ne­go­ti­a­tions

Mem­ber na­tions keen to con­clude par­leys by year-end

The Hindu Business Line - - NEWS - AMITI SEN

In a re­newed at­tempt to break the stale­mate in the on­go­ing Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (RCEP) ne­go­ti­a­tions in­volv­ing 16 coun­tries, se­nior of­fi­cials from In­dia and China met in New Delhi this week to try and reach a com­mon ground on mar­ket open­ing com­mit­ments.

“We are try­ing to re­duce the gap be­tween the mar­ket ac­cess be­ing de­manded by China and what In­dia has to of­fer. Till this mat­ter is re­solved it will be dif­fi­cult to make progress in the over­all RCEP ne­go­ti­a­tions,” a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told Busi­nessLine. The In­dian and Chi­nese del­e­ga­tions that participat­ed in the meet­ing on June 10-11 were headed by Com­merce Sec­re­tary Anup Wad­hawan and Chi­nese Vice-Min­is­ter of Com­merce Wang Shouwen, re­spec­tively.

The RCEP, be­ing ne­go­ti­ated be­tween the 10-mem­ber ASEAN, In­dia, China, Japan, South Korea, Aus­tralia and New Zealand, once im­ple­mented, would re­sult in one of the largest free trade bloc ac­count­ing for 45 per cent of the world's pop­u­la­tion, and a com­bined GDP of about $21.3 tril­lion and 40 per cent of world trade. In­dia, how­ever, is not com­fort­able with the steep com­mit­ments on open­ing mar­kets in goods be­ing pushed by most mem­bers, es­pe­cially China. New Delhi wants to of­fer much lower mar­ket ac­cess in goods to China com­pared to other mem­bers such as the ASEAN, Japan and South Korea, but Beijing is not will­ing to ac­cept it.

“In the two-day meet­ing, dis­cus­sions hap­pened on goods, ser­vices as well as in­vest­ments. While there was some pos­i­tive move­ment in ser­vices with China par­ing its de­mand, a lot more progress needs to be achieved in goods and in­vest­ments,” the of­fi­cial said.

In­dia, which has so far of­fered to elim­i­nate tar­iffs for 70-80 per cent of goods for China over an ex­tended pe­riod of time, is un­will­ing to give more as the In­dian in­dus­try is ap­pre­hen­sive of be­ing ad­versely

In­dia is not com­fort­able with the steep com­mit­ments on open­ing mar­kets in goods be­ing pushed by most mem­bers, es­pe­cially China.

hit due to it. “China al­ready runs a trade surplus of over $60 bil­lion with In­dia and the do­mes­tic in­dus­try is reel­ing un­der heavy com­pe­ti­tion from Chi­nese goods. The gov­ern­ment can't let the sit­u­a­tion go out of hand,” the of­fi­cial said.

A de­ci­sion, how­ever, has to be taken by the new Com­merce & In­dus­try Min­is­ter Piyush Goyal soon on how much more flex­i­ble In­dia could get. China is al­ready hint­ing at go­ing in for a free trade agree­ment be­tween the ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea if the RCEP talks take too long. The ASEAN, too, is putting pres­sure on In­dia to move fast so that the ne­go­ti­a­tions could be com­pleted by the year-end.

“There are a num­ber of tech­ni­cal dis­cus­sions sched­uled in Mel­bourne at the end of the month. By then, In­dia should be clear on its ne­go­ti­at­ing flex­i­bil­i­ties,” the of­fi­cial said.

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