India to flag worry on pace of services talks at RCEP

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At the forthcoming ministerial-level meeting on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 Asia-Pacific nations, India has decided to raise concerns regarding the ‘slow’ pace of negotiations on services trade liberalisation as opposed to ‘higher priority’ being accorded to commitments to open up goods trade in the region.

India’s concerns:

India is upset that other RCEP nations seem to be focused more on “extracting as much (binding commitments) as possible on eliminating tariffs to open up goods trade”, instead of sticking to the RCEP ‘Guiding Principles and Objectives’ which state that the “negotiations on trade in goods, trade in services, investment and other areas will be conducted in parallel to ensure a comprehensive and balanced outcome.”

What you need to know about RCEP?

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

  • RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

Way ahead:

India has decided to talk tough and state that any more discussions on opening up goods trade will be only after ensuring that negotiations on services trade liberalisation “catch up” with talks on goods trade. India is keen that in return for agreeing to open up goods trade (where most RCEP nations have an advantage), other member nations must commit to substantial liberalisation of services trade – including on easing norms on movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work.