India has invited representatives from countries that are currently negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal on September 14 and 15 to discuss ways to strengthen the mega trade deal, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said.
In a press briefing on September 11, the minister said that India would keep the interests of its domestic industry paramount before signing a 16-member Asia-Pacific trade pact.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed me to enter RCEP negotiations while taking all steps to protect the domestic industry. At the same time, we have to keep in mind the opportunity to increase business activities of new technology, new foreign investment and opening up of the services sector, new market access to Indian exporters. Otherwise, Indian exporters will be at a disadvantage," Goyal said.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is being negotiated between 16 countries including 10-nation grouping ASEAN and India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Goyal added that national interest cannot be hijacked by one or two sectors, it has to be seen in the overall context.
"Having said that, we will certainly balance even those industries which feel that they could be at an unfair advantage against Chinese companies and ensure that whatever agreement we make, will be good for India in the balance of convenience. But you will certainly appreciate that if I have to look at 100 percent sectors, then no negotiation can ever be complete," Goyal continued.
He attended the recently-concluded AEM-India Consultation at Bangkok where countries resolved to conclude negotiations by November.
Further, Goyal stated that India has requested South Korea and Japan to review their free trade agreements (FTAs) with India.
"We have requested Korea and Japan as well that it has been many years that [India's] FTA's have been signed with them and the situation has changed. Trade balances and deficits have increased... so we have requested those two countries to review these FTAs as soon as possible," Goyal noted.
When asked about the concerns being raised by certain domestic industries on the presence of China in the RCEP group, Goyal said negotiations are underway on not everybody is opposed to the pact.
"We are literally vertically split. We have half the industry saying please bring RCEP, and we [the industry] can increase exports dramatically and there is a section of industry which feels that, we should not have RCEP," he said.
RCEP is a proposed trade pact between 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their six FTA partners, including Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
It accounts for 25 percent of global gross domestic product, 30 percent of global trade, 26 percent of foreign direct investment flows, and 45 percent of the world's population.
The minister stated that patents department has been given new targets to improve approvals for MSMEs and startups.
"I have given new targets to them (patents office) for faster copyrights, design approvals... I believe we will bring historical changes and speed in copyrights and patent approvals in the next 1.5 years. I have requested parents officers for more concessions in the MSME and startup sectors in the approval of copyrights and parents which will be announced soon," the minister said.