RECP must include services trade, address mutual concerns: Piyush Goyal

Member nations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) must strictly adhere to rules of origin provisions and expand the trade basket by adding services trade for effective cooperation, India’s minister of commerce and industry and railways Piyush Goyal told an India-ASEAN Troika Trade Ministers’ meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.

He said the surge in goods imports into India is accentuated by instances of non-adherence to the Rules of Origin provisions and lack of full cooperation in investigating and addressing such breaches. The utilisation of preferential tariffs by India under the India-ASEAN FTA is below 30 per cent because of standards, regulatory measures and other non-tariff barriers in the region, Goyal pointed out.
Market access issues with China for Indian goods have been particularly problematic, he pointed out, adding that Indian Industry is not convinced that RCEP will create a win-win situation for all by ensuring balanced outcomes in an across the key pillars, particularly goods and services.
He said there is apprehension and pessimism in Indian industry about the impact of previous Free Trade Agreements. India made asymmetrical sacrifice in goods, giving much more than it received. The promise of commensurate offers in services subsequently by ASEAN countries did not fructify, he said. 
The commerce and industry minister emphasised on the need to adhere to the RCEP guiding principles to balance high ambition on goods tariff reduction with addressing of sensitivities in bilateral parings like India-China through temporary and permanent deviations/ exclusions becomes important.
He also stressed on possible mechanism to address persistent and wide imbalances in trade to give comfort to stakeholders. Services negotiations must also target commensurate levels of ambition, with offers covering most sub-sectors of interest in all modes in a binding manner.
He said that constraints and difficulties can be overcome easily even with a slight degree of mutual understanding and cooperation.
For India, Goyal said the RECP is a logical extension of its Act East Policy and it holds enormous potential for economic growth and stability for the entire region.  He said that in the 26th round of RCEP negotiations at the Experts level, which concluded recently in Melbourne, some progress has been achieved with member countries showing a degree of flexibility and accommodation. 
India too has shown significant flexibility during the negotiations and helped to achieve convergence in few important areas. Two more chapters are close to conclusion, which will take the number to 9 of the total 16 chapters. He expressed hope that the negotiations will achieve even greater convergence during the coming rounds in China and Vietnam.