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India May Initiate Free Trade Talks with European Union after Walking out of China-led RCEP

Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said sectors such as gems, textiles and agriculture have pushed for a trade pact with the EU.

Agencies

Updated:November 5, 2019, 11:36 PM IST
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India May Initiate Free Trade Talks with European Union after Walking out of China-led RCEP
Representative image.

New Delhi: India should hold talks with the European Union for a free trade agreement, the government said on Tuesday, a day after it refused to join a China-backed regional trade pact for fear of a flood of cheap Chinese imports.

Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said sectors such as gems, textiles and agriculture have pushed for a trade pact with the EU. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also called for talks to restart to finalise an agreement.

"We should engage in a FTA with the EU," Goyal told a news conference where he explained the reasons for not joining the Regional Cooperative Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that 15 nations concluded on Monday. India stood its ground at the negotiations and in the national interest decided not to join the China-led mega trade pact, he added.

China earlier on Tuesday said it will follow the principle of "mutual understanding and accommodation" to resolve the outstanding issues raised by India for not joining the RCEP.

Goyal said India had put forward "strong demands" on services, investments leading to the prolonged negotiations for the RCEP, which includes the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, besides China.

The minister also hit out at the Congress party for criticising the government, saying it was the Manmohan Singh government that had initiated the discussions for making India part of the RCEP grouping, ignoring the fact that it had huge trade deficit with the member nations. The trade deficit with the RCEP grouping soared from $7 billion in 2004 to $78 billion in 2014.

The minister further said the Modi government was reviewing various FTAs signed by the Manmohan Singh government with South Korea and ASEAN with a view to safeguard the interest of nation and pave the way for making India a $5-trillion economy.

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