ASEAN strives to complete Indo-Pacific deal this year, India included

06:00 | 17/06/2020 Vietnam - Asean

(VEN) - As the 2020 chair of the ASEAN bloc, Vietnam is making joint efforts with the other member states and six partner countries to accelerate negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with a view to signing it later this year in time to deal with the heavy economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

asean strives to complete indo pacific deal this year india included

Bringing India back

RCEP negotiators seemed to reach a consensus on the regional trade treaty last year after lengthy rounds of negotiations, but India opted out over concerns about being swamped by imports harmful to its domestic industry and agriculture. India has a trade deficit with 11 of the 15 RCEP countries.

The agreement would encompass more than three billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about US$21.3 trillion, accounting for about 40 percent of world trade. India’s decision to stay out of the deal would significantly reduce its impact, explaining the impetus for renewed proposals handed to its negotiators in recent weeks. Nguyen Thi Quynh Nga, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Multilateral Trade Policy Department, said that despite the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact, Vietnam is willing to join other countries in efforts to accelerate negotiations.

Pak Iman Pambagyo, Chair of the RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee, told Vietnam Economic News’ reporters that ASEAN is determined to bring India back to negotiations so that the agreement can be signed on schedule. “I believe we can achieve this goal in 2020 - the year of Vietnam’s ASEAN chairmanship,” Pak Iman Pambagyo said.

Experts said the signing of the RCEP this year would strengthen trust in the global and regional economies in the context of numerous difficulties facing them. So far, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are on board.

Accelerating negotiations

“ASEAN continues discussing the agreement’s legality and pending problems, trying to finish these efforts in June. Flexible solutions are being discussed by ASEAN member states and partner countries and will be proposed for India’s consideration,” said Luong Hoang Thai, Director of the Multilateral Trade Policy Department.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic is still spreading in many countries, effecting RCEP negotiations. For the agreement to be signed, ASEAN member states and partner countries will have to meet and reach a consensus on pending problem. Although online meetings have been organized, their results cannot be as good as the outcome of direct discussions.

RCEP is a free trade agreement between 10 ASEAN member states and six partner countries, including China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Once signed, the trade deal will create the world’s largest free trade area.

Huong Phuong