At HT Leadership Summit, Piyush Goyal explains why India didn't sign RCEP

Updated on Nov 12, 2022 05:27 PM IST

In November 2019 the Modi government cited 'core concerns' and walked out of talks over buying into the RCEP - talks that began under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.

Union minister Piyush Goyal at the HT Leadership Summit
Union minister Piyush Goyal at the HT Leadership Summit

Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday offered an insight into why India opted out of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), saying it was due to concerns expressed by stakeholders within the MSME (medium, small and micro enterprises) and dairy sectors.

"Modi government does not sign FTAs for the sake of doing so... if there is an arrangement it will be made after extensive consultations with all stakeholders that will establish prospective benefits for us and the other nation."

Full Coverage | Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2022

"Why did we leave RCEP? There were 15 countries (not including India) in the agreement, of which 10 were ASEAN nations, with whom India already has trade deals. India also has deals with Japan and Korea…"

"New Zealand is a small trade partner... We have signed an agreement with Australia... we saw that effectively RCEP is India-China FTA," he explained.

READ | RCEP is a China club, best India stays out of it

In November 2019 India cited 'core concerns' and walked out of talks over buying into the RCEP - talks that began under the Congress-led UPA in 2012.

In 2020 foreign minister S Jaishankar said India did not join the RCEP because it would have had 'negative consequences'. "… not in our interest to enter this agreement as it would have fairly immediate negative consequences for our own economy," he said while talking about trade deals with the European Union.

READ | RCEP would have hurt India’s economy, EU FTA not easy: S Jaishankar

Goyal today took a swipe at the Congress, saying, "Under previous governments, India signed unfair trade deals. Don't know if the decision was taken by someone at highest levels within the government or outside it."

He also stressed on the strength of the Modi government in quitting RCEP talks, "... till today, apart from one or two economists who keep writing in editorials and op-eds, no industrialist has come to me and said 'you made a mistake'."

"When I did stakeholder consultations... particularly with MSMEs and dairy industry... they were paranoid that if we signed RCEP it would be the end of their business," he said.

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