“We welcomed the report presented by ministers on the outcomes of the RCEP negotiations. We noted 15 RCEP participating countries have concluded text-based negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues and tasked legal scrubbing by them to commence for signing in 2020. India has significant outstanding issues which remain unresolved. All RCEP participating countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way. India’s final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues,” said a joint statement after the RCEP summit in Bangkok on Monday.
Secretary (East), MEA, Vijay Thakur Singh at a press conference in Bangkok said: “In the given circumstances, we believe not joining the agreement is the right decision. This reflects both our assessment of current global situation and of the fairness and balance of the agreement.”
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said in Bangkok that India was welcome to join RCEP whenever it was ready. “It’s the 15 nations that have decided to move forward first,” Le said. “There won’t be any problem for the 15 nations to sign RCEP next year,” he added. “Whenever India is ready, it’s welcome to get onboard.”
An Asean Diplomat told ET: “Both sides get to inform their constituencies back home that they got a deal (RCEP 15). India gets to tell its constituencies that it held out to safeguard domestic interest. If a deal could be struck before the 15 complete their legal scrubbing, then it could be 16 members. If not, 15 will proceed ahead without India. The 15 will benefit, although not as much as with India in RCEP, which bucks the trend of protectionism being equated with nationalism. An RCEP deal is better for the world economy.”