The 15 members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are committed to work with India before the trade agreement is signed, New Zealand’s chief negotiator for the pact has said. “We would love to see India as part of the RCEP agreement.
We understand the sensitivities here domestically and we are committed, all the 15 countries, to work with India before the final agreement can be reached,” Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s minister of state for trade and export growth, said on the sidelines of an interaction organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry here.India has said it remains open for further talks on the RCEP if its demands are met even though it is out of the pact for now and it put the onus on other countries to come out with a plan to address unresolved issues.
“At the moment, our decision to not join is final,” commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday, a day after the conclusion of the pact in Bangkok. The pact is expected to be signed next year. India’s key areas of concern include strict rules of origin, ecommerce, autotrigger mechanism, base rate, investment protection and trade remedies. The country’s significant trade deficit with China, too, is a major sticking point as it is feared to increase once RCEP is in place. Commenting on when would bilateral parleys begin with India and who would initiate those, O’Connor said, “That’s part of the negotiations and discussions now. I can’t prejudge what they might mean but clearly we still have good relationships with all countries and whether India is part of the agreement, that’s up for India and its ministers to decide, we hope they are”.
Highlighting that New Zealand will have good relationships with India “regardless of what”, he said a trade agreement like RCEP will offer certainty. New Zealand is a member of RCEP and was pushing for opening up of India’s dairy sector, triggering fears of dumping of dairy products from milk-surplus countries Australia and New Zealand.
The minister said total production from New Zealand can only feed 40 million people and the country will focus on high value products to complement the dairy farmers in India. “We hope that we can work through to a position where Indian farmers and the minister himself can see the value including dairy,” he said.