The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) may be finalized within this year. The RCEP which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam is being negotiated since 2013. The negotiations on RCEP were last year extended into 2019 as the parties – the ten Asean states and their six partners, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – were unable to reach an agreement on key issues. India has reservations on joining RCEP, mainly because it will bring the country into a free trade relationship with China and worsen a trade deficit of more than $60 billion.
Despite India’s concerns about its trade deficits with Asean countries and China, it would be missing out on a key economic opportunity to establish a presence in the fast-growing Asean region if it did not join the RCEP. The Asean region, and the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand sub region, in particular, is the geopolitical centre of Asia. The region connects east Asia with south Asia, a link between the two economic powers of China and India.
If negotiations succeed, RCEP will be the largest multilateral trade pact in history. It is important for India to not lose out on this opportunity to further integrate with the Asean region.