Fifteen Asia-Pacific countries on Sunday signed the world’s biggest free trade deal, seen as a huge coup for China in extending its influence.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes 10 Southeast Asian economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, with members accounting for around 30 percent of global GDP.
First proposed in 2012, the deal was finally sealed at the end of a Southeast Asian summit as leaders push to get their pandemic-hit economies back on track.
India was one of the original 16 participating countries of the RCEP but had withdrawn in 2019 over several reasons, of which one was Chinese goods flooding the Indian market.
Acknowledging the strategic importance of India eventually becoming a party of to RCEP, the special ministers’ statement said, “RCEP Signatory States will commence negotiations with India at any time after the signing of the RCEP Agreement once India submits a request in writing of its intention to accede to it.”
In fact, the summary of the agreement leaves a special exception for India to join the pact later. Chapter 20 of the pact says, “This Agreement is open for accession by India, as an original negotiating State, from the date of its entry into force.”
The reason why Prime Minister Modi backed out of the RCEP was because the pact would have made the economy of the country very much dependant on China as it plans to takeover US control the world.
Analysts in New Delhi however questioned the timing of signing the pact, given that China was seen as to be intimidating its neighbours in Southeast Asia.
Many in Asia are hoping this deal will help hasten the recovery of the economy from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic. But the good thing is India is already looking good in shape and recovering far better than other economies of the world.