“We aren’t keen on Asean joining the initiative right now. We need to safeguard our interests and China’s influence through the grouping is a concern,” said an official. Launched last year, the trilateral (SCRI) aims to create a free and transparent trade and investment environment. In 2019, the cumulative gross domestic product of the three countries was $9.3 trillion, and their merchandise goods and services trade was worth $2.7 trillion and $0.9 trillion, respectively.
The SCRI, first proposed by Japan, aims to reduce dependence on China amid a likelihood of rechurning of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It seeks to build upon the existing bilateral frameworks like the Asean-Japan Economic Resilience Action Plan and IndiaJapan Industrial Competitiveness Partnership and attract foreign direct investment in the region.
“We will see later if Asean can join,” the official cited earlier said.
The three countries are considering setting up industrial parks, a mechanism to address resolution of trade and investment barriers, a streamlined risk management system, and improved sea and air connectivity between the three nations. Moreover, at least 10 product and services categories have been identified from the perspective of the volume of trade in all categories of goodsfor collaboration.