You are here

Sunil Meruva asked:What is the significance of RCEP for India? What will be the implications of its FTA with China for the Indian economy?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Jagannath P. Panda replies: Debates and dialogues across Asia continue over the process of East Asia economic integration. These discussions continue in the backdrop of the United States ‘pivot’ Asia policy, and continuing tensions over disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, which is touching new climax. The main thrust behind the East Asian economic integration has been ASEAN+6 Agreement and the East Asian Summit (EAS); where the aim and idea is to build a stable Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) among the countries in Asia. The ASEAN+6 RECP is aimed at transforming the region by higher economic growth through more cross-border trade and investment. Among these developments, the India-ASEAN relationship seems to be on constant move and on ascendancy. The relationship between India and the ASEAN seems to be touching new realities, with up-gradation of relationship to strategic partnership during the December 2012 India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit.

    India would like ASEAN+6 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to materialize as soon as possible. This will help in furthering the aims and objectives of India’s own Look-East Policy. RCEP will have huge trade potential. In real practice, RCEP once formalized, is supposed to emerge as the most effective and largest free-trade bloc in the world. It will bring ten ASEAN countries and other six countries (China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand) together. These six members have FTAs with the ASEAN currently. If it materializes, it is supposed to be one of the most vital free-trade blocs in the world; the combined geo-political resources would put the grouping into a totally different league, making it the most important economic grouping of the world. The idea of RCEP negotiations is a new one; and was mainly discussed during the East Asian Summit in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) in November 2012.

    Clubbing with the ASEAN has been a principal policy priority for both China and India. At present, while China has clubbed with the ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6, India is clubbed only under the ASEAN+6 framework. Compared with India, the Chinese have always enjoyed closer contact with the ASEAN through a versatile engagement policy that includes building up a variety of economic, political and cultural linkages. Officially, China wants to promote and has asked for ‘ASEAN’s leading role in regional cooperation’ in East Asia under ASEAN+1 or ASEAN+3 frameworks. Beijing has developed and pushed for a range of ‘practical cooperation’ in the fields of infrastructure, connectivity, trade and economy, capital and information, transport and people-to-people exchanges. The former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had pointed out recently that, in 2010, ‘China became ASEAN’s biggest trading partner [...] launched the largest FTA among developing countries and [ . . . ] set the target of $500 billion in two-way trade by 2015’. India must take a serious note of this Chinese intent, and accordingly maximize its trade and economic contacts with the region.