Engaged in talks with sincerity for RCEP deal: Modi

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI Photo)

India will on Monday assess if all its concerns were addressed and interests accommodated in the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, as hopes for signing of the proposed mega trade deal next week dimmed.

His comment came on a day the president of the Opposition Congress, Sonia Gandhi, said that if the BJP-led government went ahead and signed the RCEP pact, it would result in “untold hardship” for farmers, shopkeepers and small enterprises.

Modi commenced his visit to Bangkok on Saturday to take part in the 16th Asean-India summit and the 14th East Asia Summit— both being hosted by Thailand. He will also attend the third summit of the nations negotiating the RCEP agreement on Monday.

“At the RCEP Summit, we will take stock of the progress in RCEP negotiations. We will consider all issues including whether India’s concerns and interests in trade in goods, services, and investments are being fully accommodated, during this Summit,” Modi said in a statement issued just he left New Delhi for Bangkok.

Hope for a significant breakthrough in the negotiations ahead of the RCEP summit dimmed over the past few days. The conclave of the leaders of the 16 nations might end with consensus on a preliminary agreement, or just a statement announcing progress of the negotiation and declaring intent to clinch the deal in early 2020, sources in New Delhi said.

Prime minister also told Bangkok Post newspaper that India had put forward “reasonable proposals in a clear manner” during the negotiations for the RCEP.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 Asean (Association for South-East Asian Nations) members— Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines— and six other countries, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, which already have separate similar arrangements with the bloc. The negotiations for the pact started in November 2012.

The RCEP pact, if signed, will create the largest free-trade region, as the 16 participating nations are home to 3.6 billion people, or nearly half of the global population, and account for 39.5 % of the GDP ($ 49.5 trillion) of the world.

The latest roadblock for the negotiation came when New Delhi of late made some new demands to make it sure that the proposed agreement did not result in a flood of cheap import from China.

“India remains committed to a comprehensive and balanced outcome from the ongoing RCEP negotiations. Their successful conclusion is in the interest of everyone involved. Hence, India seeks balance across goods, services and investments, and also within each pillar,” Modi said in his interview to Bangkok Post newspaper.

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