Port Wings News Network:
In the last six years of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, more than 100 stakeholders’ consultations have been held by the Department of Commerce and other lead Ministries and Departments of the Government of India seeking industry inputs for formulating India’s interests, covering a wide spectrum of the economy including agriculture, chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, plastics, textiles, ferrous and nonferrous metals, automobiles and machinery.
The Department of Commerce also got industry feedback in the area of rules of origin, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), antidumping, countervailing duties, safeguards measures and Intellectual Property Rights as well. The consultations also included, in recent times, comprehensive interactions with stakeholders under the guidance of the Minister for Commerce and Industry and Railways, Piyush Goyal. Several industry consultations were also organised by FICCI, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CII, ASSOCHAM and DGTR.
State Governments are one of the important stake holders in these negotiations. Recognising this Commerce Secretaries have led delegations to various states and regular engagements have been held with Chief Secretaries and their teams of officials on the various aspects of RCEP so that they may be made aware of the developments and encouraged to further interact with industry and other stakeholders. Delegations have been led to the States of Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
At the Ministerial level, RCEP has been represented and guided by Commerce Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Suresh Prabhu, CR Chaudhary and Piyush Goyal over the past five years. Besides, in the various Working Groups/ Sub-Working Groups senior representatives of other Government Ministries/Departments have been leading the negotiations such as Department of Revenue, Central Board for Indirect Taxes and Customs, Department of Economic Affairs, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Department of Commerce, Directorate General of Trade Remedies, Department of Financial Services, Department of Telecommunication, Competition Commission of India, Reserve Bank of India. On other specific issues pertaining to other line Ministries/Departments, the Department of Commerce has been obtaining their inputs for framing India’s negotiating strategy in RCEP.
RCEP negotiations began in November 2012, in Cambodia. RCEP negotiations are held at various levels – Prime Minster of India participates in the RCEP Summits while Commerce and Industry Minister leads the Indian delegation at the RCEP Ministerial Meetings and at the expert level senior officials of Department of Commerce take the lead in the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC). Till date many officers of the Department of Commerce have led these negotiations like Rajiv Kher, Sumanto Chaudhary, J S Deepak, Dammu Ravi, Arvind Mehta, Anup Wadhawan and Sudhanshu Pandey.
Department of Commerce also entrusted three autonomous think tanks viz. Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), IIM Bangalore and Centre for Regional Trade (CRT), New Delhi for making independent studies on RCEP with exhaustive consultations with stakeholders across the country.
Stakeholders’ inputs have been received in person from the Industry Associations/individual industries or industry clusters, by post and email.
The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ( Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and its six FTA partners ( China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand).
In 2017, prospective RCEP member states accounted for a population of 3.4 billion people with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP, PPP) of 49.5 trillion USD, approximately 39 percent of the world’s GDP, with the combined GDPs of India and China making up more than half that amount.
RCEP is the world’s largest economic bloc, covering nearly half of the global economy and is estimated that by 2050 the GDP of RCEP member states is likely to amount to nearly 250 trillion USD with the combined GDPs of India and China making up more than 75 percent of the amount.