In the wake of signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), India has exhorted ASEAN countries to fast track the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and underlined the need to forge regional value chains and production networks. Addressing a business session on ASEAN-India Relations at the Delhi Dialogue-VIII on February 17 in New Delhi, Secretary (East), External Affairs Ministry, Anil Wadhwa said that enhancing India-ASEAN trade is a priority area under the new Plan of Action. The Plan of Action which was adopted at the India- ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur in November 2015 seeks to implement the ASEAN-India partnership for peace, progress and shared prosperity (2016-20).
The Plan of Action recommends steps needed to be taken in the areas of trade and investment, finance, transport, food, agriculture, forestry, information and communication technology, tourism, science, technology and innovation and mining and natural resources management. In the past year, a significant achievement has been the completion of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area with the entry into force of the ASEAN-India Agreements on Trade in Services and Investment on July 1, 2015.
“So far, India, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand have ratified the agreements. Lao PDR has ratified the Agreement on Trade in Services. We request you to use your good offices to encourage the remaining ASEAN countries to ratify the Agreement at an early date,” Mr Wadhwa said. Indonesia, Philippines and Cambodia are yet to ratify the agreement.
He also added that the ASEAN-India Trade Negotiating Committee has been given the task of undertaking review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement, which came into effect on January 1, 2010. The review will help optimize its utilisation and bring it up-to-date with today’s standards, Mr Wadhwa asserted.
Making a strong pitch to enhance India-ASEAN cooperation, Mr Wadhwa said: “We need to undertake capacity building programmes, workshops and seminars that focus on the ASEAN-India FTA, Rules of Origin, services liberalization, regulatory aspects of ecommerce, elimination of non-tariff barriers, competition policy and intellectual property rights, SME cooperation and promotion”.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is being negotiated between ASEAN and six countries with which it has a FTA including India, has been gaining momentum ever since the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was signed. Mr Wadhwa said that the RCEP could be a reality soon if India and ASEAN simultaneously succeed in forming regional value chains and production networks. “With the TPP becoming a reality, expediting RCEP is in our interest,” he said. The RCEP has a combined GDP of about $17 trillion, and accounts for nearly 40 percent of world trade
CLMV Development Fund
India’s total trade with CLMV countries has grown from $1.1 billion in 2004 to $11.9 billion in 2014. Elaborating on the importance to combat the global economic slowdown, Mr Wadhwa said that India and ASEAN need to develop their common value chains and production networks. India has already announced a Project Development Fund with a corpus of INR 500 crores ($73 million approx) to develop manufacturing hubs in CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries.
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