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‘No compromise on core interests’: India decides not to join RCEP agreement

"The Prime Minister stands firm as key concerns not addressed (in the agreement). There will be no compromise on core interests," sources said.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 4, 2019 10:34:41 pm
RCEP agreement, India RCEP agreement, PM Modi, Congress on RCEP agreement, modi thailand Indian Express news Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File)

India on Monday decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with government sources saying the agreement does not reflect its original intent and does not address India’s key concerns.

“The Prime Minister stands firm as key concerns not addressed (in the agreement). There will be no compromise on core interests,” sources said.

India’s stand is a mixture of pragmatism, the urge to safeguard interests of the poor and the effort to give an advantage to India’s service sector. While not shying away from opening up to global competition across sectors, India made a strong case for an outcome which is favourable to all countries and all sectors, sources said.

The RCEP is an umbrella trade agreement involving 16 countries, including the 10 ASEAN countries and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. On Saturday, the trade ministers from the 16 RCEP countries failed to resolve the outstanding issues identified by India, though back-channel talks continued on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.

India had been raising the issue of market access as well as protected lists of goods mainly to shield its domestic market as there have been fears that the country may be flooded with cheap Chinese agricultural and industrial products once it signs the deal.

Welcoming the move, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the decision will ensure support to India’s farmers, MSME sector, dairy and manufacturing sectors, among others. “India’s decision to not sign RCEP is a result of PM @narendramodi’s strong leadership & unflinching resolve to ensure national interest in all circumstances,” he tweeted

“PM @narendramodi’s firm stand over the years of not going ahead with a deal if our interests are not taken care of, is a welcome break from the past, where a weak UPA government ceded precious ground on trade and could not protect national interest,” Shah said.

Other BJP leaders also congratulated the PM for not joining RCEP.

Read | Piyush Goyal takes U-turn, thanks PM Modi for not joining RCEP

Amid opposition from the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier made it clear that addressing its concerns over “unsustainable trade deficits” and its demands over access to the “services sector” holds the key for it to join the RCEP agreement.

Earlier in the day, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at the government alleging that the proposed free trade deal will flood the country with cheap goods, resulting in millions of job losses and crippling the economy.

His remarks come two days after Congress president Sonia Gandhi launched a blistering attack on the government’s economic policies and said signing the RCEP agreement will deal a “body blow” to the economy, resulting in “untold hardship” for farmers, shopkeepers and small enterprises.

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ASEAN leaders had originally proposed the idea of RCEP in 2012 when it was endorsed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led UPA government — talks began in 2013.

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