Outlook India - 26 February 2020
NZ strongly encourages India to become participant of RCEP: Winston Peters
New Zealand strongly encourages India to become a full participant in RCEP as its absence is neither in the economic nor the strategic interest of the region, Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Winston Peters said on Wednesday.
Peters was talking on Indo-Pacific: From principles to partnership organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs.
He said like India, New Zealand also wants to see an Indo-Pacific that is open and inclusive, committed to transparency, respects sovereignty and adheres to international law open to the freedom of navigation.
He said if India wished to be a key player in the region then it would be essential to have membership of something like Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, if not RCEP.
Peters, who is on a four-day visit to India, said New Zealand wants India to take a greater role in international political structure that support security and regional economic governance.
"New Zealand has also supported India’’s bid for a permanent seat in UNSC," he said.
On RCEP, he said the country "strongly" encourages India to become a full participant in RCEP.
"New Zealand respects India’’s wish to seriously consider terms of its engagement but the blunt reality is that India’’s absence is neither in economic nor strategic interest of region," Peters said.
"We want India to be a foundation member of a rules- based grouping trade and development and if India wishes to be a key player in the region security we think it would be essential membership of something like RCEP if not RCEP," he added.
As many as 16 countries — 10 nation bloc ASEAN and its six trading partners including India — were negotiating the mega free-trade pact RCEP.
After years of negotiations, India in November last year pulled out of the proposed RCEP over unresolved "core concerns" at a summit meeting of the participating countries in Bangkok.
Peters said India’’s commitment to stay proactive and stabilising this region is both "appropriate and welcome".
"We also know safeguarding these principles and responding to security concerns of our region will require collective action," he said.
"Just as Indian Ocean matters hugely to you (India) the Pacific (ocean) matters hugely to New Zealand. It is where we wield the most influence and where we can have the most positive impact," he said.
Peters said there are some "serious challenges and some of them might be great danger to all of us".
"We need to encourage best practice in transparency in development cooperation and ensure that the geographic environment does not get affected from Pacific priority to regional security," he added.
Peters said India seeks to take a similar approach as New Zealand in the Indo-Pacific region.
"This is where Indo-Pacific concept joins us together. In that context New Zealand welcomes India’’s commitment to the Pacific islands region and we recognise India’’s long standing cultural, historical and human ties across the region and its contribution to Pacific security and priorities," he said.
"This includes India signing the Paris agreement, its determination to increase investment in renewable energy and solar power. That contribution shows the role India can play across the region," he added.
"Time is of the essence and if we waste time the vaccum will be filled by others that is neither in the interest of India nor Indo pacific region so let us start working together," Peters said.