RCEP members worry over market access to China

RCEP is the proposed mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between 16 Asia-Pacific countries including India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member ASEAN bloc.

The concerns of 15 Asia-Pacific nations including India, over agreeing to give greater market access to Chinese goods without gaining similarly in return, are likely to take centre-stage in the forthcoming ministerial meeting on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP is the proposed mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between 16 Asia-Pacific countries including India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member ASEAN bloc. Trade ministers of these countries are slated to meet on November 3-4 at Cebu, Philippines to take forward the FTA negotiations.

The proposed FTA, which aims to open up trade in goods and services as well as liberalise investment policies, will cover a market of over three billion people in these countries — whose total GDP is more than $17 trillion and account for 40 per cent of world trade.

Indian government sources said it was not just India, but all the other countries in the RCEP grouping are also worried about agreeing to eliminate tariffs altogether — a move that will mainly help China.

The sources said the concerns of these RCEP countries also stem from fears of China dumping its excess capacity in several items including steel, as well as highly subsidised items, thereby harming the local industry in the importing countries and distorting trade in the process. They said the RCEP negotiation process, which had begun three years ago, is unlikely to be concluded by this year-end as earlier thought due to the prevailing difficulties in successfully concluding the talks.

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