China promises greater market access to India if it improves RCEP offer

China has dangled a carrot before India to make it improve its market liberalisation offer under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact by offering to open its own market even more, but New Delhi is cautious.

 

In the one-on-one talks between the two countries, that are part of the 16-member proposed regional bloc, China has said that if India went beyond its current offer of eliminating tariffs on about 74 per cent items for the country, it would not only match it but commit to a higher number, an official told BusinessLine.

 

India, however, is apprehensive that its industry will not be able to make as much gains from the tariff elimination under RCEP as the Chinese already have a head-start which is reflected in the $54-billion trade surplus China has over India.

 

Most of the countries that are part of the RCEP, including the 10-member ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, are pushing India to decide on its market opening offer for China as early as possible as that was holding the rest of the negotiations back.

 

Members keen on pact

Members are keen to have the RCEP agreement in place by the end of this year and a three-member team comprising Trade Ministers from Indonesia and Thailand and the ASEAN Secretary General was in New Delhi last week to meet Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in order to fast-track decision making.

 

Although India is also not eager to open its markets for Australia and New Zealand, to the same extent as for the ASEAN, Japan and South Korea with which it has bilateral free trade agreements, it is most cautious about China as the Indian industry feels most threatened by it.