A DAY after India withdrew from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) over “significant outstanding issues”, China indicated its willingness to work out a solution based on “mutual understanding and accommodation”.
“The RCEP is open. We will follow the principles of mutual understanding and accommodation to resolve the outstanding problems raised by India. We welcome India joining the RCEP at an early date,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
On Monday, India said at the RCEP summit in Bangkok that it will not join the 16-nation trade agreement since the outcome is “neither fair nor balanced” even as the other 15 nations in the regional grouping — 10 of ASEAN plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — decided to sign the pact next year.
A joint statement issued at the summit said: “India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved. All RCEP Participating Countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way. India’s final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues.”
Among the fears expressed by opponents of the deal was that it would lead to the Indian market being flooded by Chinese goods in key sectors. Speaking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Geng said RCEP’s signing and implementation by India would have been conducive for more Indian goods to enter China and other participating countries.
“Likewise, it would have been conducive for Chinese goods to enter India and other markets. India and China are large emerging countries with a huge market of 2.7 billion which has a huge potential. In the last five years, China’s imports from India have increased by 15 per cent,” he said.
“China does not deliberately pursue a trade surplus with India. We can expand our cooperation in investment, production capacity and tourism in order to create a bigger pie for sustainable and balanced development,” he said.
Responding to a question on whether India’s withdrawal will dent the RCEP, Geng said: “China is willing to work with all parties to resolve the outstanding issues, following the principles of mutual understanding and accommodation. We welcome India joining the RCEP at an early date.”
Further, he said: “All parties believe that conclusion of the negotiations on RCEP sends out a positive message in favour of multilateralism and free trade. It will tap into the potential of this region and bring more benefits to the people of the region.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping also referred to the RCEP deal in his address Tuesday in Shanghai while inaugurating the China International Import Expo. “I am happy to note that yesterday 15 countries taking part in RCEP concluded text-based negotiations and I hope the agreement will be signed and entered into force at an early date,” he said.
Xi said China will be happy to conclude free trade agreements with more countries and speed up negotiations on China-EU investment agreements and similar agreements between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council. “We will stay actively engaged within the United Nations, G20, APAC and BRICS, to move economic globalization forward,” he said.
In his speech, Xi made a pitch for removing impediments to economic globalism. “Let us join hands with each other, instead of letting go and tear down walls instead of erecting walls and continually bring down trade barriers,” he said.
“China will continue to open up its market. It has a population of 1.4 billion, and its middle-income population is the biggest in the world. The huge Chinese market points to a potential that is simply unlimited. The Chinese people often say the world is a big place and I want to see more of it. What I want to say today is that the Chinese market is a such a big one that you should all come and see what it has to offer,” he said.
Referring to the recently concluded fourth plenum of the 19th party congress of the Communist Party of China, he said the decisions “included a host of significant measures to deepen reform and… opening up to promote reform, development and innovation”.
More than 150 countries are participating in the second CIIE in Shanghai with 64 countries, including India, setting up country exhibitions.