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Business Economy

RCEP talks may spill over to 2019, Govt to hold parleys with China, others: Prabhu

New Delhi, Sep 4 (UNI) Amid push by several countries such as Japan to create a solid framework for free trade among the members of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Union Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday said the ongoing tough negotiations may spill over to 2019.
''RCEP negotiations won’t conclude this year, '' Mr Prabhu told reporters on the sidelines of a function to launch India Coffee Mobile App 'Coffee Connect'.
He said the Government will hold talks with Australia, New Zealand and China on Free-trade agreement (FTA) in addition to Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and extensive discussions with industry were planned on the RCEP.
Mr Prabhu said,'' India does not have FTA with Australia, New Zealand and China. We will separately have to negotiate with the three countries. India 's insistence has been accepted now. We can't negotiate only through RCEP route.''
''RCEP, which ended on Sunday, empasised on few important issues -- one is inevitable linkage to goods and services,'', Mr Prabhu
''We clearly said RCEP stands for stands partnership not only for goods alone but for economic partnership. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership envisages that services must be integral part of the trade. An important linkage acceptable, he said.
The minister said, ''We need a grace period of more than 20 years for application of rules. It was agreed in Singapore that it could be 30 years or more.''
About customs lines, Mr Prabhu said they will have to talk to all industry associations individually about the lines need to be covered.
Mr Prabhu led the Indian delegation to the sixth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministerial Meeting held on August 30-31 in Singapore and held several bilateral discussions with Ministers of the participating countries and reaffirmed India's commitment to the growth of global trade.
The Ministers directed that the negotiations on all these issues be intensified during the 24th RCEP Auckland Round from October 17-24, 2018.
The Ministers attending the meeting took stock of the state of negotiations across the various negotiating Groups and Sub-Working Groups.
The Chair of the Trade Negotiating Committee, Mr Pak Iman Pambagyo, made a detailed presentation on the state of play of RCEP negotiations and sought ministerial guidance and direction on pending issues.
The Ministers acknowledged the good progress made in the negotiations so far with successful conclusion of four chapters-- Economic and Technical Cooperation; Small and Medium Enterprises; Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation and Government Procurement.
The Ministers endorsed ‘The Package of Year End Deliverables’ and urged the negotiators to intensify their work with a view to narrowing gaps and finding balanced outcomes in the negotiations as it moves forward.
On key pillars of the negotiations, the Commerce Minister defended India’s interests effectively and secured maximum flexibilities.

In Goods, the negotiators have been tasked to work on the ASEAN’s Non-Paper on Trade in Goods Market Access Negotiations, which is to be considered as the working assumption paper, according to a statement here on Tuesday.
The Commerce Minister reiterated the need for providing adequate flexibilities on various elements of the Non-Paper, such as exclusion, reduction, staging and deviations. Accordingly, it was agreed that member countries will intensify bilateral pairing process on requests and offers basis on these elements and determine the ambition level of each country to the mutual satisfaction.

In Services, Mr Prabhu emphasised on the ''importance of maintaining quality and commercially meaningful offers across all Modes. In a significant development, all member countries agreed to establish the linkage between Mode 4/ MoNP and the Services text''.
Welcoming this linkage, Union Commerce Minister urged member countries to make quality offers by October 5.

In Investment, the Commerce Minister underlined the importance of negotiations focussing on the application of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and mentioned that clarity on its application would lead to further movement in the Investment Chapter.
At India’s behest, it was agreed that ISDS will not apply to most-favoured-nation(MFN) and prior permission required(PPR). All member countries are expected to submit their revised Reservation Lists without broad sectoral carve outs.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a mega regional free trade agreement being negotiated amongst 16 countries, comprising 10 ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) and six ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
So far six Ministerial Meetings, five Inter-sessional Ministerial Meetings and 23 Rounds of the Trade Negotiating Committee at the technical level have been held.

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