Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran has said that India “should have remained inside” the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and the country is pushing itself to the “margins of the regional and global economy” by staying out of the agreement which will become a “constraint in our seeking an expanded geopolitical role”.
The remarks come a day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar mounted a defence of the Indian government’s decision to stay out of the RCEP.
Saran, who has served as chairman of National Security Advisory Board, told The Indian Express, “India should have remained inside RCEP and leveraged the trading arrangement to increase its market share of the world’s largest and most dynamic trading zone. Now we will be less competitive than those who are inside RCEP.”
“We would have attracted greater investment because our goods and services would have had preferential access to this large and growing market. We should not look narrowly at imports only,” he said.
The former foreign secretary said, “Furthermore, as I had said repeatedly, we are pushing ourselves to the margins of the regional and global economy. This will become a constraint in our seeking an expanded geopolitical role at a time when the world is undergoing a massive churn thanks to the pandemic and due to rapid technological change,” Saran said.
A day after the RCEP was signed by 15 countries — without India — Jaishankar on Monday said the impact of past pacts has been de-industrialisation and the consequences of future ones would lock India into “global commitments”, many of them not to India’s advantage. He said those who argue “stressing openness and efficiency” do not present the full picture, and this was “equally a world of non-tariff barriers of subsidies and state capitalism” — an oblique reference to China. “In the name of openness, we have allowed subsidised products and unfair production advantages from abroad to prevail… this was justified by the mantra of an open and globalised economy… The choice was to double down on an approach whose damaging consequences were already apparent; or to have the courage to think through the problem for ourselves,” Jaishankar said.
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