Trade ministers of 16 countries, including India and China, will meet on May 21 and 22 in Vietnam to discuss progress in the ongoing negotiations of proposed mega trade deal RCEP. So far, negotiators of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have held 18 rounds of negotiations. “This will be a crucial meeting in Hanoi. Ministers would deliberate on the single-tier system of duty relaxations, besides issues related to services and investments,” an official said.
Under the single-tier system, the RCEP member countries are trying to finalise the maximum number of goods on which duties will either be eliminated or reduced drastically. Chief negotiators and senior officials of all the countries recently held discussions in the Philippines on this regard.
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. RCEP is a mega trade deal that aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical co-operation, competition and intellectual property rights.
As the domestic industry has apprehensions over a deluge in imports from countries such as China after the duty cut under the agreement, India may take certain deviations for such countries. India already has implemented a free trade agreement with the ASEAN, Japan and South Korea. On the other hand, the country is negotiating similar pacts with Australia and New Zealand. 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 $75 trillion.