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RCEP trade ministers to meet in Beijing next month

22/07/2019

Commerce ministers of 16 countries including India and Japan which are negotiating the mega free trade agreement RCEP will hold a crucial meeting in Beijing next month to iron out differences and push the negotiations forward, an official said. The ministers will meet on August 2-3 in Beijing, immediately after conclusion of the 27th round of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at Zheng Zhou in China, the official added.

The round, at the chief negotiator level, will commence from July 22. It will end on July 31. The last round of talks concluded earlier this month in the Australian city of Melbourne. RCEP bloc includes the 10 ASEAN members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and their six free trade pact partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.

The countries are looking to conclude the talks by the end of this year. However, certain domestic sectors, including metals, have raised concerns over the presence of China in the grouping as India has huge trade deficit with the country. In fact, India has registered trade deficit in 2018-19 with as many as 11 RCEP member countries, including China, South Korea and Australia.

The trade agreement aims to cover issues related to goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights. In the merchandise sector, all the countries want India to eliminate customs duties on maximum number of goods as the country’s huge domestic market provides immense opportunity for exports. India trades in over 11,500 products. Certain sensitive sectors like agriculture are mostly kept out of the purview of such agreements to protect the interest of farmers.

Experts have mixed views over the impact of this pact on India. Biswajit Dhar, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, has said that free trade pacts are not about only giving market access, but also getting that access in other countries.

Source: Financial Express