India makes significant breakthroughs in RCEP talks

suresh-prabhu [File] Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu | Reuters

Over the last weekend India made significant progress in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations held in Singapore. India was hard-pressed to include services, its chief export, under the cross-border trade pact.

"We have emphasised on the inclusion of services under goods in the economic agreement," Suresh Prabhu, minister of commerce & industries and civil aviation, told THE WEEK, at the sidelines of an India Coffee Board event in the capital.

"Our argument has been accepted and now services would also be included under the ambit of RCEP," Prabhu added. India had earlier faced criticism for stalling the RCEP talks by insisting on services to be included.

Without naming any country, Prabhu said that India was also able to convince the need for having a grace period of more than 20 years, before the RCEP guidelines of borderless trade were implemented between 16 nations.

“That is a significant achievement,” Prabhu said on Tuesday, after attending the ministerial talks in Singapore on August 30-31.

Prabhu said that custom lines would be adopted later. Suggestions for that would be sought separately by the commerce ministry from all trade associations in the country.

On the future of the RCEP, the minister said that the prospects of the talks to continue looks convincing. "We have agreed at the level of leaders to continue RCEP negotiations in 2019 as well," Prabhu said.

Earlier, China, had sought to speed up on its proposed RCEP negotiations with trade partners, and finalise it by the end of 2018 itself.

India, which does not have any seperate free trade agreements (FTAs) with China, Australia and New Zealand, would have negotiations with these countries for having trade friendly FTAs, along side the RCEP talks, said Prabhu.