Minister. Nirmala Sitharaman led the Indian delegation to the 3rd
RCEP Inter-sessional Ministerial Meeting on May 21-22
in Hanoi in which Trade Ministers of 15 other RCEP countries
participated. Trade Minister and Industry Minister of Philippines Mr Ramon
Lopez, was the Chair of the Meeting as Philippines is currently holding the
Presidency of ASEAN this year and Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, Mr
Tran Tuan Anh, as the host extended welcome to the delegates.
Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a mega regional free trade agreement
being negotiated amongst 16 countries, comprising 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
and Vietnam) plus six ASEAN FTA partners, namely Australia, China, India,
Japan, Korea and New Zealand. z
working dinner on May 21the Ministers exchanged views on global economic
developments, particularly in the area of trade, and stressed the need for the
RCEP fraternity to remain guarded and united against recent protectionist
trends and be supportive of inclusive trade policies for the greater good and
prosperity of the people of the region. They recognized the importance of RCEP
in this context. On May 22nd , Mr. Pak Iman Pambagyo, the Chair of
the Trade Negotiating Committee Leads made a presentation on the state of play
of RCEP negotiations and sought ministerial guidance on pending issues for
taking forward the negotiations.
Ministers’ took stock of the state of negotiations across the various
negotiating groups and sub-working groups, particularly in the area of goods,
services and investment. It was noted that while considerable progress had been
made, several areas still required to be negotiated to finality.
India and some other countries stressed the
need to arrive at a comprehensive and balanced agreement across the three key
pillars of goods, services and investment,that reconciled the need for high
ambition and forward looking rules and procedures, with the sensitivities and
level of development of various participating countries.
appreciated that countries have varying profiles in terms of their strengths
and aspirations, and sensitivities, which would vary across countries. The
comfort with countries with whom a country already had FTAs was of an entirely
different order, as compared to countries with whom there may be trade deficits
and no such agreement.
this position, participating countries were attempting to move towards
negotiating around the next round of offers and requests in goods to achieve
the maximum ambition possible, while balancing sensitivities through suitable
mechanisms like staging periods and line exceptions.
also countries are in the process of submitting their next round of offers to
similarly negotiate a mutually beneficial outcome.
Minister Nirmala Sitaraman underlined the importance of Services for realizing
the full potential of RCEP that recognized the varying areas of strength and
comparative advantage of participating countries, and allowed countries to
balance sacrifices and gains.
member countries to work towards liberalization across all modes of Services,
including movement of professionals in Mode 4, in line with the RCEP Guiding
Principles that seek to build on ASEAN +1 FTAs in a manner consistent with GATS
principles. On Mode 4, Movement of Natural Persons (MNP) and RCEP Travel Card
India strongly emphasized its position, and the importance of these areas in
facilitating temporary movement of professionals to achieve the full potential
of the forward and modern looking regional integration that was being
that temporary movement of professionals for activities like installation,
trouble shooting, training, maintenance, investment management etc., not to be
confused with immigration, was essential across the entire dimension of good
and services trade, and investment.
pointed out that a selective approach to the detriment of Services would not be
in the best interest of RCEP negotiations, and would be failing to acknowledge,
promote and protect the strength and mutually beneficial nature of the current
relationship, where Indian companies with limited expatriate presence had
created over 100,000 local jobs in the RCEP countries, apart from cost saving
and enhanced competitiveness.
Investments, the reservation lists submitted by all countries will be analyzed
from their commercial meaningfulness. Ms Sitraman maintained that India’s
position that suitable arrangements in the area of Investor State Dispute
Settlement were critical to finalization of the investment negotiations.
Ministers have urged TNCs to deliberate on these issues further at the next 19th
Hyderabad Round scheduled to be held from July 18-28 2017. India will be
seeking a balanced outcome in RCEP with equivalent and balanced ambition across
all Chapters and on the principle of Single of Undertaking.