Letters

Opt-out as loss

 

India’s decision to opt out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was not the right decision, especially from an economic angle. It is true that there were political compulsions such as opposition from farmers, industrialists and other stakeholders. But an attempt should have been made to take them along by explaining the benefits that would accrue to Indian agriculture and industry and the need to adopt better methods of farming and better technology for industry. India should strive to constantly improve its standards rather than do away with competition. It should also be noted that the Indian consumer would have benefited immensely in the form of better products at cheaper rates. In the long run, the farmer, by adopting better and cost effective farming techniques, would have eventually been able to meet the competition. It is the same with our industries too. The government should rise to the occasion to improve standards and face competition rather than stifle it and thereby slow down innovation and the advent of better technology.

Jacob Dilip Titus,

Thiruvananthapuram

The RCEP could have been a potential gamechanger for India by providing it the opportunity to be a part of a larger supply chain and also help increase exports. It would have provided greater economic integration with east and southeast Asian nations. Instead of a defensive strategy, India should now go forward for a more expansionary approach by improving the competitiveness of local industries and the agriculture sector.

Simran Agarwal,

Jaipur

The risk-free approach that India adopted in its decision not to join the RCEP can be justified on the ground that it could have led to extreme repercussions for indigenous industries, traders and farmers. But, at the same time, India should also make sure that it is not being looked at as seeking refuge under protectionism and can actually be receptive towards foreign producers. India should reformulate its economy so as to be on a par with its competitors. Protectionism is certainly not the solution considering India’s goal of becoming a $5-trillion economy.

Mridani Pandey

Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh

Let us not forget that there were some industrial and business bodies that wanted India to join the RCEP. As a bloc that comprised the ASEAN countries, China, Australia, New Zealand, it would have made business dealings with member countries much easier. The long-term impact of being protectionist is likely to be adverse. Incidentally, it was India that was one of the promoters of the concept of “regional co-operation”. By turning inwards and restricting access to its domestic market, India has gone backwards as far as economic opportunities and development are concerned. We must not forget that the Central government and governments in northeast India have been talking about an “Act East” policy for some years. Will this outlook now come to naught?

A. Bhuyan,

Nagaon, Assam

The economy is getting globalised faster than we care to admit. Economic blocs not only ensure a guaranteed quantum of business for a stable economic base of members but also help leverage the strength in numbers against other competitive entities. Trading blocs tend to hone skills in productivity and innovation in competitive environs within and without a group. Cocooning and dithering on the likes of the RCEP ensures a loss of both. IT may be our mainstay in exports today but it is ever vulnerable to technology bursts. Whereas manufacturing and the likes of leisure services provide huge employment, and fillip to the GDP with better wealth distribution. Governments tend to operate on a five-year timeframe and perspective. The economy is a 30-year cycle. We had big reforms in 1990. The next one is due now and trade must get eminence.

R. Narayanan,

Navi Mumbai

The RCEP is not the be all and end all. The good thing is that it is better not to seal the pact rather than reneging later like US and other countries. However two question are unsettling. Why does Indian business always need protection and is unable to compete with other nations despite government flagship schemes such as ‘Make in India’? It is this rationale which is making India complacent, unable to blaze a trail. Second, why is the quality of Indian products poor, adulterated and are unable to deliver value for money? From apples to high end mobiles and TVs, markets are dotted with foreign brands and Indian consumers who can afford are making a beeline for them. Indian manufactures are viewed as catering to the lower strata. This begs the question when locals have no great desire for Indian goods how can the country’s goods be a big draw for other nations? Indian merchandise should have pull factor .

Deepak Singhal

Chennai

The government’s decision to stay out of the RCEP is a typical official preference to err on the side of caution when facing a seemingly unresolvable dilemma like balancing the conflicting interests of producers and consumers. In the context of the economic slowdown, making India a sitting duck for a deluge of cheap imports will compound the misery of farmers, small businesses and industries. Free trade is all about access, it does not concern itself with fairness because the rules of the game do not take into account the different levels of economic development among member nations of a trade bloc.

At the same time, protectionism will turn to be counterproductive in the long term even for segments that the government now seeks to shelter from imports. When economic growth picks up, the absence of captive export markets will hurt farmers and businesses and the government will face criticism for not doing enough to shore up their export competitiveness. The government will have to articulate a credible narrative to build a political consensus for initiating long-pending land and labour reforms.

V.N. Mukundarajan

Thiruvananthapuram

 

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 8:17:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/opt-out-as-loss/article29912635.ece

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