RCEP Trade ministers to meet tmrw in Laos to review progress

Trade ministers of 16 countries, including India, China and Japan will meet tomorrow in Laos to review the progress and resolve issues holding back negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will also represent India at the fourth East Asia Ministerial Meet and 13th AEM (ASEAN Economic Ministers)-India consultations besides the 4th RCEP Ministerial Meeting in Laos, an official said.

There are several issues, including the proposed three-tier system of tariff relaxation and matters pertaining to services sector, which need intervention at a ministerial level.

In the recently-concluded 12th round of negotiations for the mega trade deal - RCEP - in Auckland, a few members raised concerns about the three-tier system proposed by countries, including India, to cut or eliminate taxes on goods.

India has decided to offer greater access to its market for ASEAN countries - with which it has a free trade agreement in place - and has proposed to eliminate duties or tariffs on 80 per cent of items for the 10-nation bloc under this proposed pact.

Similarly, for Japan and South Korea, it has offered to open up 65 per cent of its product space.

For Australia, New Zealand and China, Delhi has proposed to eliminate duties on only 42.5 per cent of products, as India does not have any kind of FTA with these three countries.

RCEP is a mega trade deal which aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.

The talks for the pact started in Phnom Penh in November 2012. The 16 countries account for over a quarter of the world's economy, estimated to be more than USD 75 trillion.

India already has FTAs with the ASEAN grouping, Japan and South Korea.

The 16-member bloc RCEP comprises 10 ASEAN members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners - India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Further the official said that Sitharaman will also hold bilateral meetings with her counterparts from Russia and New Zealand to discuss ways to further boost the trade and economic ties.

Source: Business Standard

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