India: RCEP proposes India defer market access

  • The 15 member countries of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) grouping have proposed that India defer opening up its market to them, in a move to address New Delhi’s key concern of its burgeoning trade deficit with them especially China.
  • The proposal was made to India in Apr 20 after the trade negotiators of the 15 countries met virtually.
  • “15 countries proposed to India a possible option to sign the entire RCEP Agreement with deferral of some or all market access negotiations related to India,” a senior diplomat said, adding that this means that India does not need to worry about its widening trade deficit.
  • India’s trade deficit with China was USD43.51bn between Apr 19 and Jan 20. “India is yet to respond to the proposal,” the diplomat said while assuring that India has no reason to hesitate to join the RCEP because it will have “nothing to lose”.
  • “Furthermore, India can take a special status to be engaged in Asian regional rule-making,” the diplomat said. India opted out of the RCEP in 2019 after negotiating it for seven years due to lack of reciprocity on its key demands.

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