Deciding that India would stay away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would have been the world’s largest Free Trade Agreement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said his conscience would not have permitted him to sign the trade pact.
In his address at the RCEP Summit in Bangkok, he said, “When I measure the RCEP Agreement with respect to the interests of all Indians, I do not get a positive answer. Therefore, neither the Talisman of Gandhiji nor my own conscience permit me to join RCEP.”
Citing the country's farmers, traders, professionals and industries, and workers and consumers, who have a stake in such decisions, he said that RCEP does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns, and in such a situation, it is not possible for India to join the agreement.
The Indian government was worried that the agreement would open the door for cheap Chinese imports to flood the country and small businesses would be hit hard by it.
India has been forcefully raising the issue of market access and tariffs, but the issues could not be resolved during the talks over the weekend.
Here is the text of Prime Minister Modi’s address at the RCEP summit:
India stands for greater regional integration as well as for freer trade and adherence to a rule-based international order. India has been pro-actively, constructively and meaningfully engaged in the RCEP negotiations since inception. India has worked for the cherished objective of striking balance, in the spirit of give and take.
Today, when we look around we see during seven years of RCEP negotiations, many things, including the global economic and trade scenarios have changed. We cannot overlook these changes. The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirt and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP.
It also does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns In such a situation, it is not possible for India to join RCEP Agreement.
Our farmers, traders, professionals and industries have stakes in such decisions. Equally important are the workers and consumers, who make India a huge market and the third biggest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
Thousands of years before RCEP was conceived, Indian traders, entrepreneurs and common people built abiding contacts with this region. For centuries, these contacts and ties made valuable contribution to our shared prosperity.”
When I measure the RCEP Agreement with respect to the interests of all Indians, I do not get a positive answer. Therefore, neither the Talisman of Gandhiji nor my own conscience permit me to join RCEP.