The Centre for East and Northeast Regional Studies, Kolkata (Ceners-K), an independent think-tank of researches, on Wednesday said the government’s move to opt out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could be reconsidered with the Asean Secretariat reportedly inviting the country to participate in the next round of meeting in February.
“There is a scope for reconsideration. India cannot avoid it if the country wants to be part of the region. The more the delay, the more difficult it would be because there are more barriers to joining. So, the country must take a decision quickly,” said Aniruddha Lahiri, vice-president of Ceners-K.
At an event organised by Ceners-K and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Lahiri said although India and China have FTA pacts with Asean, they do not have an agreement with one another.
“There is anxiety in India that lowering tariff on Chinese goods will increase the trade deficit. The Indian authorities are also worried about food commodities and milk from Australia and New Zealand flooding the domestic market,” he said.
Author and policy analyst Sanjaya Baru, who was present at the summit, also said that RCEP can offer a scope for the country to be more competitive. “One way to see RCEP is as a threat and the other is to see as an opportunity. It is without doubt a challenge. But without opening to competition I do not see any other mechanism through which we can make Indian industry more prominent,” he said.
The RCEP, comprising a 10-member Asean bloc and six other countries (India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand), is engaged in negotiations for a free-trade pact.