Modi takes stock of RCEP negotiation progress

Last Updated : 08 October 2019, 03:38 IST
Last Updated : 08 October 2019, 03:38 IST

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held a meeting on the progress of negotiations for the proposed mega free-trade agreement Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), talks for which have entered the last phase, according to sources.

The meeting was attended by five ministers -- Home Minister Amit Shah, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Hardeep Singh Puri, they said.

The other meeting on the RCEP was held in the home ministry.

A meeting of some trade experts, academicians and members of the industry was also held at the BJP office here on this trade agreement.

These three meetings assume significance as trade ministers of 16 RCEP member countries will hold discussions in Bangkok next week to take stock of the negotiations.

These meetings are also important as certain sectors, including dairy, are strongly opposing this agreement.

According to the sources, this would probably be the last ministerial-level meeting as only a few issues, like rules of origin, are pending for conclusion of talks for the proposed pact.

RCEP is being negotiated among 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam -- and their six trade partners Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.

As per the plan, India is expected to reduce or eliminate duties on about 80 per cent of goods imported from China under the proposed agreement. Bilateral talks are still going on with the neighbouring country, with which India has a trade deficit of over USD 50 billion.

Similarly, India may cut customs duties on 86 per cent of imports from Australia and New Zealand, and 90 per cent for products imported from ASEAN, Japan and South Korea, with which India already has a comprehensive free-trade agreement.

The cut or elimination of these duties could be implemented over a period of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years.

Negotiations are also going on for an auto-trigger mechanism, wherein India would have the option to increase customs duties if there would be a sudden surge in imports of a particular product, particularly from China, to protect the domestic industry.

The negotiations for the RCEP deal has reached a fundamental phase as the member countries are targeting to conclude the talks by November.

Published 08 October 2019, 03:38 IST

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