Amidst concerns expressed by the Domestic Industry
and Affiliates of the Sangh Parivar about the debilitating impact on our trade
if India went ahead with signing the RCEP the trade agreement between the
country and 10 ASEAN states besides China, Government of India held a high
level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the pros and
cons of the country entering the Mega trade pact.
The industry and the Parviar have flagged
concerns that signing the agreement means opening the floodgates for flow of
Chinese goods in the Indian market when the trade deficit with our neighbor
have touched new high.
The meeting, attended by Home Minister Amit Shah,
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and External
Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, came ahead of a meeting of trade ministers of
the 16 countries negotiating the RCEP in Bangkok during October 10-12.
Goyal expected to participate in the Bangkok negotiations
Commerce Minister Goyal is expected to
participate in the Bangkok negotiations, which will probably be the last
meeting of the trade ministers of the proposed RCEP states — 10 members of
Asean (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and its six FTA partners (China, Japan, India,
South Korea, Australia and New Zealand).
A joint statement issued after the last such
meeting in Thailand in September said ongoing global uncertainties had added to
the urgency to conclude RCEP.
may do a tight rope walking
There was no official word on the high level
meeting conducted by the Prime Minister but indications are the country may do
a tight rope walking because of their wide-ranging implications, particularly
on Indian farmers and dairy cooperatives. The government has received several
representations from the dairy industry about concerns on giving concessional
access to Australia and New Zealand for supplying milk and milk products.
for “auto trigger” safeguard when imports from China crossed a certain
In recent months, ASEAN countries have proposed
the text of RCEP could be finalized and signed this year, with contentious
issues such as tariffs and market access to be taken up in an annexure India has mooted an “auto trigger” safeguard
that would come into play when imports, especially from China, crossed a
Under the proposed agreement, India is expected
to reduce or eliminate duties on about 74 to 80 per cent of goods imported from
The Department of Commerce has been consulting
all stakeholders on matters related to RCEP and has had more than 100
consultations in the past six years that covered a wide spectrum of the
economy, including agriculture, chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals,
plastics, textiles, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, automobiles and machinery..
cooperatives have expressed concern over RCEP
Leading milk cooperatives have expressed concern
over RCEP. Those who want India to sign RCEP may argue that giving access to a
small country like New Zealand would not make much difference, but once they
come in, the entire cooperative character of Indian milk supply chain will
collapse. Small farmers with one or two cows would be the worst victims of
“RCEP will have impact at the village-level. It
will impact farmers, Panchayats and local bodies. Therefore, India needs to do
a lot more intense negotiations, to make it fair to the Indian industry
according to sources.
options for RCEP after consultations with the industry
Top BJP leaders also met stakeholders from the
industry to seek their views at a roundtable at the party headquarters
recently. A few proposals are under the consideration of the government
following the wide ranging interaction the government and the party had with
the Industry. They include to put-off the RCEP for some time, to have an
agreement with safeguards, or to not sign at all. India has a trade deficit of almost 55
billion US dollars with China and signing of RCEP will further increase the
affiliates not for RCEP
RSS affiliates have argued that since RCEP
requires members to cut their tariffs on a majority of products to zero, India
would be adversely affected as it already has a trade deficit with 11 of the 16