15 RCEP countries likely to proceed without India, says deputy minister

Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming indications at the recent ASEAN + 5 countries (excluding India) showed that India still has major reservations (about RCEP). — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming indications at the recent ASEAN + 5 countries (excluding India) showed that India still has major reservations (about RCEP). — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Indications have shown that the 15 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) countries are likely to proceed with the trade deal despite India opted to sit out, said Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming.

The recent ASEAN plus 5 (excluding India) meeting showed that New Delhi still has major reservations about RCEP, he said.

“At this point in time, chances for India to sign the deal seem to be quite low.

“Nevertheless, the fact that we can have substantive conclusion at the ASEAN + 5 countries meeting shows that we are able to send a very possible message to international trading system, that we are still very much pushing ahead with the multilateral arrangement to include more countries into higher standard free trade agreement, such as RCEP,” he said.

Ong told reporters after delivering the keynote address at “Listing on Bursa: Unlock Your Business Potential through Listing” here, today.

Since the launch of RCEP in 2012, officials have conducted close to 30 rounds of negotiations over the past seven years.

“I think it is better to get something on the table.

“Let say if India feels that they can agree to the terms at a later stage, I am sure they are welcome to come on board,” added Ong.

India has decided to pull out from RCEP for now over concerns on terms in the deal including protection of its domestic industry and influx of cheaper made-in-China goods in its market.

According to a joint leaders’ statement released in conjunction with the RCEP Summit in Bangkok on November 4, 2019,  ASEAN plus five (China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand) has concluded the “text-based” negotiations for all 20 chapters and essentially all their market access issues.

Formal signing of the trade deal is expected to take place in 2020.

Co-organised by Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and Bursa Malaysia Bhd, the event aims at encouraging local companies with an excellent track record to list their companies in Bursa Malaysia to spur more private sector-led domestic investment growth within the country. — Bernama

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