Commerce Minister backs out of attending RCEP meeting in China

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal. File  

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has backed out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intersessional Ministerial meet in China in order to participate in the extended session of Parliament that will now run till August 7.

“The Minister will not be attending the RCEP meeting in China, since he is the Deputy Leader of the Rajya Sabha and there are many important Bills that need to be passed that require him to be there,” an official in the Commerce Ministry told The Hindu.

Announced Friday

Mr. Goyal’s decision to not go for the RCEP meeting comes as a surprise since the decision that he would attend was announced as recently as Friday. Government officials are comparing Mr. Goyal’s cancellation to Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s cancellation of his trip last week to attend the BRICS meeting in Brazil.

However, the fact remains that India still sent a Minister — Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways V.K. Singh — in Mr. Jaishankar’s stead. India will be represented at the RCEP meeting on August 2-3 by Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan.

In the run up to the meeting, Mr. Goyal held several separate meetings with representatives from various Export Promotion Councils from the engineering, auto, chemical, pharmaceutical, leather, agriculture, marine and food processing, dairy, copper, zinc, aluminium, textiles, and gems sectors in Mumbai and New Delhi.

Fears, concern

During the meetings, almost every single one of the sector representatives raised serious concern over the RCEP trade pact, especially regarding their fears of what it would mean for India if it gives nearly unrestricted market access to China.

They fear that this would mean Chinese goods would flood Indian markets, edging out domestic players. Another concern was the lack of access for Indian services in the RCEP countries, which include the 10-nation ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and its six FTA (Free Trade Agreement) partners — India, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

India is engaging on issues related to RCEP at various levels, with trade negotiators visiting Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s Henan province, until July 31, to conduct talks on achieving “substantial outcomes” by the November 1 RCEP summit.

However, it was expected that Mr. Goyal’s presence at the RCEP meeting in China would lead to some headway in the negotiations, especially since China is such a source of concern for Indian industry.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 9:04:44 AM |

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