Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi leave after a group photo at the ASEAN summit in Nonthaburi (Photo: AP)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi leave after a group photo at the ASEAN summit in Nonthaburi (Photo: AP)

India decides against joining RCEP as key concerns remain unaddressed

  • The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP, said PM Modi
  • 'India has significant outstanding issues, which remain unresolved,' the RCEP countries said in a joint statement after concluding negotiations

India on Monday decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal holding that it did not get any “credible assurance for India on market access and non-tariff barriers".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his statement at the RCEP Summit in Bangkok: “Today, when we look around we see during seven years of RCEP negotiations, many things, including the global economic and trade scenarios have changed. We cannot overlook these changes. The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP. It also does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns. In such a situation, it is not possible for India to join RCEP Agreement."

“India’s stand at RCEP is a strong reflection of PM Modi’s strong leadership and India’s rising stature in the world. India’s decision will greatly help India’s farmers, MSMEs and dairy sector," a government source said speaking under condition of anonymity.

A joint statement issued by RCEP said that 15 RCEP participating countries except India have concluded text-based negotiations for all chapters will begin legal scrubbing to sign the trade deal 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," the statement said.


The government was under intense pressure from domestic industry, farmers as well as political parties to not join the unfair deal as it would lead to dumping of cheap Chinese goods leading to wiping out of small scale industries. The timing of the deal was also questioned at a time the Indian economy is reeling through a severe downturn.

“India’s stand is a mixture of pragmatism, the urge to safeguard interests of the poor and the effort to give an advantage to India’s service sector. While not shying away from opening up to global competition across sectors, India made a strong case for an outcome which is favourable to all countries and all sectors," the official said.

“Gone are the days when Indian negotiators craved in to pressures from the global powers on trade issues. This time, India played on the front foot, stressing on the need to address India’s concerns over trade deficits and the need for other countries to open their markets to Indian services and investments," the official added.

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