Regional comprehensive economic partnership agreement in critical state: commerce secy

There is a real operationalisation of the Look East policy of India of late, says Rajeev Kher


Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | September 4, 2014 | New Delhi

The regional comprehensive economic partnership (RECP) agreement is in an “extremely critical state” and talks must take into account each country’s strengths for any plurilateral negotiation, commerce secretary Rajeev Kher has said.

“India brings with it the possibility of opening up the markets, the possibility of opening the services sector, which can make other country’s manufacturing sectors more efficient,” Kher said. “The West is represented by transatlantic trade and investment partnership whereas Asia is the manufacturing capital of the world.

Kher was speaking at a joint symposium between the government and the economic research institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA).
He said that in the last three months India has embarked on a journey in a much better institutional environment and there is a “real operationalisation of the Look East policy of India”.

Backing his statement, Kher said prime minister Modi has just concluded a visit to Japan, Chinese president Xi Jingping is scheduled to visit India this month and the India-Asean summit will be held later this year.

Besides Kher, others who addressed the symposium on ‘Raising India’s competitiveness through manufacturing, infrastructure and connectivity’ included Nguyen Cam Tu, and Shyam Saran.

Hidetoshi Nishimura, the executive director of ERIA, said the symposium was the outcome of his meeting with Modi, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, and commitment given by the former to organize a symposium on these lines.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the 10 member states of Asean: Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

India has received the FTA on services and investments in Asean, which was to be signed in Myanmar last week but was delayed because Indian commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman was unable to attend the meet due to “domestic compulsions”.

Trade between India and Asean countries amounts $80 billion, a figure which appears balanced but is tilted towards Asean. But if we take into account essential commodities, the bilateral flow of trade evens out, Kher said.

Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran said that connectivity stretching from the Far East to Southeast Asia is a very realistic possibility but remains a possibility since things don’t change overnight.



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