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RCEP signing expected to be delayed till Feb 2020

Nov '19
Pic: PIB
Pic: PIB
The signing of the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is expected to be delayed till next year, according to a draft statement by Southeast Asian leaders released recently in a summit in Bangkok. The primary reason for the delay is reportedly objections from India. Summit host Thailand said yesterday the deal could be signed by February 2020.

Thailand had earlier said it aimed to conclude negotiations by the end of the year.

Negotiations over RCEP have continued for several years, but the statement said the text of all 20 chapters was now complete ‘pending the resolution of one’ member, believed to be India.

"Most market access negotiations have been completed and the few outstanding bilateral issues will be resolved by Feb 2020," said a draft agreement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Bangkok, did not mention RCEP in opening remarks at a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders and instead spoke only of reviewing the existing trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and India. Nor did Modi mention RCEP in Twitter posts after meeting Thai and Indonesian leaders.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told the formal opening of the ASEAN summit on October 3 that the 16 nations in the potential trade bloc ought to come to agreement this year to stimulate economic growth, trade and investment, according to global newswires.

But the official statement said all members were ‘committed to sign the RCEP’ next year in Vietnam, which will take over the ASEAN chair.

Some countries have also raised the possibility of moving ahead without India on forming a bloc that also included Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Southeast Asian countries are also not in a position to ignore India as it would act as a counterbalance in the trade pact to China’s domination.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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