Japan wants to onboard all countries, including India, in RCEP agreement

Japan is looking to get all countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including India, into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations so as to make sure that all 16 member countries sign the pact together next year, reports citing a top Japanese official as saying.

“Japan is determined to take the lead in getting all 16 countries, including India, to sign the RCEP agreement together in 2020. When and how is something we will have to discuss,” the Hindu BusinessLine quoted Akihiko Tamura, deputy director general for trade policy in the Trade Policy Division of Japan’s trade ministry, as saying.
Earlier this week, Tamura was in New Delhi with Japanese trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama and had discussions with commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and senior officials from the ministry on how to help increase competitiveness of Indian industry and address the country’s concerns on RCEP.
New Delhi had last month decided to exit the RCEP being negotiated by the 10-member ASEAN, China, India, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. The reason to quit was because its main concerns, many of them related to opening up markets for its key competitor China, remained unaddressed.
India had raised a number of issues related to the RCEP framework. It believes that the ‘rules of origin’ (ROO) are very relaxed and would allow Chinese goods to circumvent tariff walls and enter India through ASEAN nations. As India may have to bring down duties on about 90 per cent of goods traded with the ASEAN to zero per cent, some of it right at the beginning, a lot of Chinese goods could come in duty free.
India has also demanded that the base rate of duty (for calculating tariff cuts) should be 2019 instead of 2014, as agreed earlier and an adequate Auto Trigger Safeguard Mechanism to prevent import surges.
Tamura said while in negotiations it was not possible that 100 per cent of requests get satisfied his impression was that there was willingness among other countries to talk with India.
The Japanese negotiator conceded that member countries did not spend much time discussing India’s issues before the Bangkok Summit. “Because we were so much focussed on the Bangkok Summit and getting an outcome there that we did not spend enough time on India’s concerns. Maybe we should take more time to discuss India’s issues next year,” BusinessLine quoted Tamura as saying.
However, he said, “An RCEP with all 16 members will be good for everybody. RCEP is an important platform for Asia. And India is an important player for Asia. So, it has to be part of the platform,” he said.