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India Turns Down Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, as 15 Other Nations To Proceed

Nov. 4, 2019 (EIRNS)—Late night meetings of the 16 participants in the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—comprised of the ten ASEAN nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India—failed to overcome India’s concerns. India has apparently pulled out of the discussions, although the others will make further efforts to find a resolution to the disagreements, but otherwise sign a deal sometime next year among the remaining 15 nations.

The RCEP negotiation was initiated by China at a time when it was being excluded from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations of the Obama Administration.

A joint statement by all 16 member nations involved in the discussions said 15 nations had concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues, and would undertake minor changes before a formal signing in 2020. But the statement included: “India has significant outstanding issues, which remained unresolved.”

South China Morning Post reported today that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told the meeting of leaders from the RCEP countries that “neither the talisman of [Mahatma Gandhi] nor my own conscience permit me to join the RCEP.” They add that the main opposition within India “has come from the country’s long protected industries, such as its dairy sector, which fears it could be wiped out by lower tariffs on Australian and New Zealand products that would result from the RCEP.” They quote a member of the RSS also voicing that the “non-tariff barriers put in place by the United States and China” were also of concern, including Beijing’s “digital iron curtain.”

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