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RCEP pact put off till next year

Trade Ministers seek more time to discuss e-comm, competition, investment issues
Trade Ministers from the 16-member countries negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, including India, China and the ASEAN, have decided to push the year-end target for a “substantial conclusion” of the talks by a year due to differences on key issues.
“Ministers guided the negotiators to deliberate further on e-commerce, competition and investment chapters where consensus could not be reached during this meeting. Ministers urged the negotiators to intensify their work with a view of narrowing gaps and finding balanced outcomes in the negotiations with the aim of concluding negotiations by 2019,” according to an official release of the Commerce Ministry.
Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu led the Indian delegation at the RCEP Ministerial meeting in Singapore on Monday and Tuesday. Trade Ministers will now give their inputs to the heads of State of RCEP countries scheduled to attend the Summit meeting on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will represent India at the meet.
The RCEP also includes Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia and together the 16 nations account for 40 per cent of world trade.
Different opinions
While most members, including many of the ASEAN countries, were keen to have a part-conclusion of the RCEP pact by the year-end, India, backed by Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, was of the opinion that market access issues needed to be ironed out both in goods and services and there was need for more time.
The Ministers acknowledged that good progress had been made in the negotiations with successful conclusion of seven chapters which include economic and technical cooperation, small and medium enterprises, Customs procedures and trade facilitation, government procurement, institutional provisions, standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) norms, the release said.
On the side lines of the RCEP, the Commerce Minister held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Singapore, China, Japan and New Zealand. He discussed bilateral issues and progress in RCEP negotiations. He also had pull-aside meetings with Trade Ministers of South Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia and Philippines to discuss matters of mutual interest.