NEW DELHI: Negotiators at the proposed mega trading bloc RCEP are unlikely to accept all of India’s pleas for changes in rules as window for negotiations is too narrow. The deal is slated to be finalised at the heads of governments’ meet in early November. Officials and diplomats said back channel negotiations are on, but the number of changes sought such as stricter rules of origin, protection of farming, dairy and telecom sectors, besides back-loading of tariff concessions, “have come a bit too late in the day”.
Negotiations on investment, electronic commerce, Rules of Origin and Trade Remedies are currently on. However, India has tried to raise other points too. Officials said Rules of Origin and electronic commerce will be two big flash points in talks with China as will be demands for back-loading of tariff on a host of goods. “We have raised our demands a bit late, but there may be some accommodation,” Prof. Biswajit Dhar of the JNU.
Though some of the Asean nations such as Singapore and Japan are trying to help India diplomatically to get the Chinese accept better terms, it remains an uphill task. “We will have a situation where some of our demands will be accepted and some may not be. We will then have to take a political call on the situation,” an official said.
As of now India wants to be part of the mega trading bloc which will also include China, Japan, South Korea, Asean, Australia and New Zealand. “While negotiating FTAs, India has in mind the interests of its people that cannot be compromised.... But the fear psychosis around FTAs has to go,” Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said in Delhi at an industry event.“In terms of RCEP, a lot of wrong information have been spread all over. Let me assure each one of you that India will no more sign any FTA in a rush.”
The Commerce Ministry also released a High-Level Advisory group report on increasing India’s foreign trade which has suggested India should “focus on both tariffs and non-tariff barriers in the partner countries.” In the area of services trade, negotiators should also focus on Mode 3 which allows Indian investments abroad on better terms.