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New Delhi: Union minister for commerce and industry Piyush Goyal on Saturday said that fruitful discussions had been held over the course of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) Ministerial meeting to bring together a group of like-minded, rules-based, transparent countries with a shared interest in an open Indo-Pacific region, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.

Highlighting that India had engaged very exhaustively in all the various streams of discussion, Goyal said that on three out of four pillars related to supply chains, tax and anti-corruption and clean energy, India was comfortable with the outcome and text and have joined the declaration.

“On one pillar, which deals primarily with trade, the Minister said, the contours of the framework - particularly on commitments required on environment, labour, digital trade and public procurement — are still emerging," commerce ministry said in a statement.

We have to see what benefits member countries will derive and whether any conditionalities on aspects like the environment may discriminate against developing countries who have the imperative to provide low-cost and affordable energy to meet the needs of our growing economy, the Minister said.

According to the ministry, Goyal also underscored that India was in the process of firming up its own digital framework and laws, particularly regarding privacy and data, and said that therefore India, while continuing to engage with the trade track in the IPEF, will wait for the final contours to emerge. In the meantime, officials will be participating in the discussions with an open mind and in the best interest of the people and businesses in India, he added.

Responding to a query, the minister said that certain responsibilities of the developed world should also be an integral part of any such agreement and that is a matter that will require deeper engagement.

Goyal also complimented all the member countries for the speed, from launch in May 2022 to the first ministerial laying down the broad contours of future engagements have been drawn up in September.

The minister expressed confidence that together this group of 14 countries will define the rules of trade among countries which believe in fair play, transparency and rules-based trading in the future, the commerce ministry said in a statement.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) was launched jointly by the USA and other partner countries of the Indo-Pacific region on May 23, 2022, in Tokyo. India joined the IPEF and Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the launch event along with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and other leaders from partner countries. Previously, virtual ministerial meetings were held immediately after the launch on May 23 and thereafter from July 26-27, 2022.

IPEF, a group of 13 countries, is a multilateral economic framework. In recent times, India is seen as focusing on bilateral free trade agreements instead of multilateral ones.

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