RCEP: India open to business, but in its terms

NEW DELHI: The government may have chosen not to participate in the Regional Integral Economic Association () agreement, but it is expected that it will seek separate trade agreements with some of the countries that will be part of the bloc, such as New Zealand, and those with whose negotiations have not progressed substantially in recent years, such as European Union .

First, there may be an agreement with Mauritius, the close ally of India, indicating New Delhi's intention to move forward with trade pacts and also have a foothold in the African market, where China has gained considerable force. While the plan was to start work on the trade and investment pact with the EU, which has been pending for a long time, towards the end of the year, it may have to be postponed until there is greater clarity, for which it has been provided an extension

The idea is to seek easier market access through lower import tariffs for products such as textiles and clothing, and market access for Indian bananas and some other products. Brexit is also expected to pave the way for a trade pact with the United Kingdom. In the period prior to the RCEP talks, government officials indicated that India could move forward quickly with a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Australia, where a joint study group was established in 2010.

But RCEP had suspended the bilateral trade agreement, which is now expected to have a stimulus, especially if Australia is willing to allow easier visa access to Indian professionals. Upon withdrawing from RCEP, India has indicated to its business allies that it is not willing to do business on its terms, but remains open to business. The idea is to be selective, especially with countries with which India has a massive trade deficit, such as China.