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Government brings in three think tanks to strategise for RCEP talks

Economic Times | 2 December 2018

Government brings in three think tanks to strategise for RCEP talks

By Kirtika Suneja

New Delhi: The government has roped in three of India’s premier think tanks to prepare a road map for negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement expected to conclude next year.

RCEP is a mega-trade agreement spanning the 10 Asean countries and its six free-trade agreement partners Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and India. RCEP countries will meet for a round of negotiations in Indonesia in February and the ministerial in Thailand in April followed by another round of talks in Australia in May.

Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and the Centre for Regional Trade, an autonomous think tank under the Department of Commerce, will discuss India’s strategy in goods, services and investment negotiations with all stakeholders including other ministries concerned, ahead of the trade negotiations.

“We have selected three agencies who will decide the template of RCEP talks for India on three key aspects. They will do stakeholder consultations independent of the ministry,” said an official in the know of the details.

The think tanks have been brought on board at a crucial time when the conclusion of the agreement has been pushed to next year with the key issues of goods, services, including easier movement of professionals, and investment still being negotiated.

"The situation on the negotiations front is fluid but not on account of India only,” said another official in the know of the details. IIM-Bangalore, ICRIER and Centre for Regional Trade are expected to give their reports to the department of commerce by the end of January. Officials said that nothing is expected to happen in RCEP in the first few months next year as several countries, including India, are going for elections and the exercise will help making sure that concerns of all stakeholders are taken on board for the trade agreement. “We want an objective exercise by the expert agencies so as not to miss on any sensitivity. We need to balance ambition with sensitivity," the second official said.

Though negotiations on seven of the sixteen chapters of the agreements are complete, they said the "heart of the negotiation will begin next year."

 source: Economic Times