APEC not to expand membership, India has to wait longer


India’s ambition to become a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation will take longer as the APEC has decided that it will not consider expanding membership to the forum actively this year. India has been pitching for expanding membership in the APEC forum.

India’s desire to become a full time member of APEC is not on the agenda of the APEC forum meeting on November 18-19 in Manila.  “I do not believe there is any active consideration within APEC for expanded membership in the current time,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matt Matthews said. The US has been in the forefront of advocating India’s membership of APEC.

“The United States welcomes India’s interest in joining the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, as the Indian economy is a dynamic part of the Asian economy,” said the joint strategic vision statement released between India and US during US President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January.

Clarifying the US’s position Mr Mathews said, It is important to be careful and accurate about describing President’s comment. President welcomed India’s interest in APEC. That speaks for itself. We welcome India’s examination of APEC. We have not entered [into any] discussion about it. I do not believe India is formally pressing for actual membership now in APEC.”

India has been an observer of APEC since 2011 and a membership to the forum would have strengthened India’s ‘Act East Policy’. However, the membership process is a long and tortuous one and for India’s entry into the forum, it would require the support of all the 21 member countries of the forum.

India is also viewed as an obstructionist in multilateral forums by a section of officials in the US government. Addressing the query on India’s entry into the forum, Mr Mathews said: “I would suggest that for any economy that is interested in APEC, a great way to start is to go into identifying some form of working groups that work on particular areas. If they are particularly interested in that, apply as a guest, send experts to participate, to both help understand how APEC works and get a better understanding of how process turnout works.”

India’s joining APEC could also be a precursor to its plans of joining bigger trading blocs like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). India would be looking to join trade blocs to liberalise trade and increase its annual growth. India’s Minister for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman had called the TPP a significant deal for India, after being briefed about TPP by US officials.  “If everything goes fine somewhere in 2016, we should be near an agreement,” she said.

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