Millennium Post

'RCEP would be incomplete if services sector norms not sufficiently liberalised'

New Delhi: Proposed mega trade deal RCEP would be incomplete if the norms to promote services sector are not sufficiently liberalised by the member countries, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia on Friday said.

She said the sector holds immense importance as it contributes more than 50 per cent of the GDP of all the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) countries.

"The area of concern is that an FTA (free trade agreement) cannot be one-sided and focus only on goods. Comparative advantages, sensitivities and ambitions of member countries will have to be given due recognition in order to achieve a balanced agreement," she said.

The Secretary was speaking at the Tenth Edition of Delhi Dialogue here.

RECP agreement, negotiations for which started in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in November 2012, aims to liberalise trade in goods and services besides investments and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.

Teaotia said a balanced agreement will help promote economic growth and development of the region. "We stand committed to constructively engage in early and satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations," she said adding the 23rd round talks are underway in Bangkok.

Lower level of ambitions in services and investments does not augur well for the agreement that seeks to be comprehensive in nature.

"RCEP would be incomplete if services sector is not sufficiently liberalised since services contribute more than 50 per cent of the GDP of all the RCEP countries," she said.

Teaotia said liberalisation of services is also imperative at a time when the world is going through a sluggish phase of recovery and trade war on tariff (duty) front.

"I think the way forward is to collectively ensure that RCEP achieves a balanced and equitable outcome for all 16 member countries," she added.

RCEP includes 10 Asean members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam -- and their six FTA partners - India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Of these nations, India has trade deficit with as many as 10 countries, including China, South Korea and Australia, among others.

Talking about the challenges facing global trade, the Secretary said trade war would severely impact all countries and it would have consequences on the recovery of global economy.

On increasing trade deficit with China, she said: "Has China begun to open up? So far, I think we still have to wait because while lines are open, the access is dependent on approval of actual sides".

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