Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

How RCEP negotiations hinge on a single phrase


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RCEP, TPP etc.

Mains level: How India will gain from being a part of RCEP


Meet for a “Substantial Conclusion”

  1. The Union Minister for Commerce & Industry is leading the delegation for the meeting for trade Ministers of RCEP member countries which is taking place in Singapore.
  2. The ministerial meeting will be followed by the 2nd RCEP Leaders Summit.

Fine-tuning the negotiations

  1. As the East Asia Summit nears this week, negotiations for the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) are going down to the wire.
  2. India is expected to take the final decision negotiating its stance more deeply.
  3. In the previous round of discussions in September, the countries had reached a “substantial conclusion” before reaching a final agreement by 2019.

India’s stance

  1. This “substantial conclusion” undermines the principle of “single undertaking”, which means nothing is done until it is completely done.
  2. In addition, only five of the 18 chapters in the RCEP are actually done, leaving the rest with many debating points.
  3. Many countries want India to be part of this deal as a way of balancing China’s outsized presence.
  4. India is having a hard time battling perceptions that it is the only laggard on RCEP negotiations.
  5. From a position of being fearful of letting the RCEP become a back door for Chinese entry into India, India has evolved its position considerably believing it has a lot to gain from the agreement.


Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

  1. The RCEP is a pact that aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.
  2. The RCEP members include 10 ASEAN members – Brunei Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam and their 6 free trade agreement partners – India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
  3. The chief negotiators had recently concluded the 24th round of meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, last month.
  4. India already has a free trade agreement with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan and South Korea and it is negotiating similar pacts with Australia and New Zealand.
  5. India is pushing for liberalizing norms to promote services trade as the sector accounts for about 55 % of India’s GDP.
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