RCEP: India upset over slow progress on services talks

Nirmala Sitharaman   | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

India, which is in talks for the proposed mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) along with 15 other Asia Pacific nations, has expressed disappointment over the inadequate progress in talks on services trade liberalisation especially for facilitating easier movement of professionals for short-term work in these countries.

Slowdown, job losses

Following economic slowdown and the consequent job losses, most countries in the grouping have turned protectionist when it comes talks on norms to ease temporary movement of skilled workers, official sources said, adding that India fears that the issue is getting mixed up with immigration.

The negotiations for the FTA, officially known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), started in November 2012. It includes the 10 ASEAN member States and six nations that have existing FTAs with ASEAN – India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

These nations have a combined GDP of around $24 trillion and a population of around 3.6 billion.

“Progress in negotiations on services is not keeping pace with the kind of progress seen in goods negotiations,” said Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who led the Indian delegation to the third RCEP Inter-sessional Ministerial Meeting on 21-22 May 2017 in Hanoi, in which trade ministers of 15 other RCEP countries participated. Official sources said the talks are likely to stretch into the first half of 2018 as several aspects of goods, services and investment have not yet been negotiated. So far, four ministerial meetings, three inter-sessional ministerial meetings and 18 rounds of the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) at the technical level have been held. The nineteenth round of TNC meeting is scheduled in Hyderabad from July 18-28.

In return for eliminating or reducing tariffs on goods, India wants RCEP member countries to work toward liberalisation across all modes of services, including movement of professionals.

India, a leading services supplier with a large pool of skilled workers, is keen that the FTA ensures easier temporary movement of such professionals as well as an ‘RCEP Travel Card’ for business people.

The article has been corrected for factual error.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 11:19:26 PM |

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