India takes a close look at US-led trans-Pacific trade pact

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Oct 30, 2015 23:32 IST
File photo of commerce minister Nirmala Sitaraman. (HT Photo)

India is taking a close look at a recently-concluded 12-nation trade pact helmed by the US, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and a visiting delegation of Indian officials sought and received on Thursday an unscheduled briefing from the Americans.

India is not a signatory as membership is confined so far to Pacific-rim states, but it has closely followed negotiations as the pact covers 40% of global trade, with the prospect of the US pursuing a similar deal with the European Union, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which will cover another 40% of world trade.

India cannot afford to be left out of the combined deal, it is felt.

Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who sought the briefing, wouldn’t categorically deny India was planning to join the trade group. “At this stage, I wanted to have more information on TPP,” she said after a meeting of the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) — a joint India-US trade body.

“Committed as we are to the multilateral body WTO, we wanted to be informed on the developments on TPP,” Sitharaman said.

“It cannot be missed that seven of the members of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — an ASEAN-led effort to form a free-trade group of 16 Asian countries including India) are party to the TPP.”

India wants to know what exactly it is up against here. “If just the TPP is taken on board, and if TTIP is also happening soon, most traditional partners of India will be in this or that agreement… so obviously we need to understand its contours,” she added.

At the TPF, India raised long-standing issues of social security deductions from salaries of Indian temporary workers, visa problems and outsourcing. The US raised concerns about intellectual property rights and greater market access for its companies.

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