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Chief negotiators of 16 countries to meet in Jakarta for RCEP talks

Chief negotiators of 16 countries including those from India and China are expected to meet on July 18-19 in Jakarta to participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks to discuss tariff-related issues in the goods sector. India will pitch for continuation of the three-tier system of tariff or tax elimination for member countries as a few countries favour only one tier, an official has reportedly said. The RCEP is a mega trade deal which aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights.

Some countries, including China, are pushing to increase the number of products that will attract zero duty. The meeting is crucial as members have to finalise the contours before the trade ministers meet in August. India may increase the number of products, but would not go for zero duty on those. It will propose to reduce taxes on those incremental goods.

India has decided to offer maximum access to its market for ASEAN countries with which it has a free trade agreement in place and has proposed to eliminate duties or tariffs on 80 per cent of items for the 10-nation bloc under this proposed pact. Similarly, for Japan and South Korea, the country has offered to open up 65 per cent of its product space. For Australia, New Zealand and China, Delhi has proposed to eliminate duties on only 42.5 per cent of products as India does not have any kind of FTA with them.

In the recently-concluded negotiations for the mega trade deal RCEP in Auckland, a few members raised concerns about the three-tier system. The next round of talks is scheduled to be held in Vietnam.