ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
‘RCEP will deepen India’s engagement with ASEAN’
INDIA sees the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as a way to deepen engagement with ASEAN and East Asia, said the nation’s high commissioner to Brunei.
Nagma Mallick told The Brunei Times that she hopes the flow of goods and services between India and ASEAN will be boosted once the 16-nation free trade agreement (FTA) is complete.
“The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement… was India’s first major regional FTA in which India offered very open and preferential access to the Indian market to ASEAN manufacturers, even though we did not get simultaneous reciprocal access to the ASEAN market for our services sector,” she said.
The goal of RCEP is to consolidate all of ASEAN’s existing free trade agreements (FTAs) into a single economic alliance, forging deeper economic cooperation by liberalising services and providing more investment opportunities in the Asia-Pacific.
The pact involves the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, forming what could become the second largest economic bloc in the world behind the single market of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The GDP of the proposed RCEP bloc would be US$22 trillion, based on 2015 figures.
“The existing agreements have brought about a fair degree of integration, particularly in some sectors like auto manufacturing between India and ASEAN. The RCEP represents a higher level of ambition in integrating our economies and covers areas like mutual recognition of professional qualifications and intellectual property,” said Mallick.
“Negotiations between all the participating countries are ongoing and we hope to achieve a balanced agreement which is beneficial to all parties to it,” she added.
Mallick added that ASEAN and India need to strengthen their free trade mechanisms, with ASEAN-India trade making up just 2.7 per cent of ASEAN’s global trade between 2012 and 2015.
Although RCEP countries were hoping the agreement could be concluded by the end of 2016, they acknowledged at a recent meeting in Laos that this would be unlikely, and committed to “intensifying negotiations”.
Three more rounds of talks will be held this year — one in Tianjin, China in October, one in the Philippines, and another in Indonesia in December.
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