India looks set to join China-led RCEP despite trade woes

India looks all set to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a China-led free trade pact, despite domestic concerns that the agreement could flood India with cheaper Chinese goods.

Minister of commerce and industry and railway Piyush Goyal is heading to the Thai capital Bangkok this week where Indian negotiators will open direct talks with counterparts from 16 nations, including China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Goyal will attend the 9th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intersessional ministerial meeting to be held on 11-12 October 2019 at Bangkok. This will be the last ministerial before the 3rd Leaders Summit to be held on 4 November 2019 in Bangkok. 
While the RECP negotiations are aimed at finalising the free trade pact by the end of the year, India’s commerce ministry said it will be looking for safeguards to be built into the proposed pact to prevent a sudden surge in imports.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the Summit. The 9th Intersessional Ministerial Meeting comes at a crucial stage where the RCEP is scheduled to be announced as concluded in November 2019.
The 28th round of negotiations for RCEP at the expert level had concluded at Da Nang, Vietnam, held from 19 to 27 September 2019. A meeting of the Trade Negotiating Committee held during the round saw senior officials participating in negotiations regarding market access on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services and Investment as well as on other areas like Rules of Origin, Intellectual Property and Electronic Commerce. 
Out of 25 chapters 21 chapters have been concluded. Crucial chapters of Investment, Electronic Commerce, Rules of Origin and Trade Remedies are yet to be settled.
Negotiators will seek ministerial guidance on these issues during the Bangkok round while ministers of participating countries will also be discussing preparations for the 3rd Leaders Summit to be held on 4 November 2019 in Bangkok.
Commerce and industry minister will also hold a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Japan, Singapore, China, Australia and New Zealand during the Bangkok Ministerial.
Ahead of the crucial Bangkok Ministerial Round this month, commerce minister Piyush Goyal held wider consultations with Indian industry for firming up India’s position and for taking into consideration industry concerns and sensitivities. The minister also chaired several inter-ministerial meetings at the official level and also with held meetings with ministers of the key ministries.
The emphasis was on putting in place appropriate safeguards, including auto-trigger mechanism, against sudden surge in imports from RCEP countries.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with six partners namely People’s Republic of China (ACFTA), Republic of Korea (AKFTA), Japan (AJCEP), India (AIFTA) and Australia and New Zealand (AANZFTA).
In order to broaden and deepen the engagement among parties and to enhance their participation in economic linkages and to enhance trade and investment related activities as well as to contribute to minimising development gap among the parties the 16 economic ministers of countries in this region endorsed the Guiding Principles and Objective for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in August 2012.
The RCEP negotiations were launched by leaders from 10 ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and 6 ASEAN FTA partners (Australia, People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand).
The objective of launching RCEP negotiation is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement among the ASEAN member states and ASEAN’s FTA partners. The RCEP negotiations commenced in early 2013.