India won’t join RCEP free trade deal, cites unresolved ‘core’ issues
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, in order to protect service workers and farmers, an official told reporters in New Delhi on Monday. India had pushed the other 15 nations to address its concern over deficits and open their markets to Indian services and investments, the official said.
“India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved,” RCEP countries said in a joint statement on Monday. “All RCEP Participating Countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way. India’s final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues.”
India is welcome to join RCEP whenever it’s ready, Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told reporters in Bangkok on Monday. Asian leaders had hoped to announce a breakthrough on the trade pact this week.
“It’s the 15 nations that have decided to move forward first,” Le said, adding that a few issues won’t be completed before the end of the year.
“There won’t be any problem for the 15 nations to sign RCEP next year,” he added. “We are taking an open attitude — whenever India is ready, it’s welcome to get onboard.”
China has sought to accelerate the pact covering a third of the global economy as it faces slowing growth from a trade war with the U.S., which withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership after Donald Trump took office in 2017. A deal would further integrate Asia’s economies with China just as the Trump administration urges Asian nations to shun Chinese infrastructure loans and 5G technology.