The Star - 01 July 2020
Thailand prepares to sign RCEP pact minus India
Fifteen Asia-Pacific countries will sign the RCEP trade pact by the end of 2020 but India will not be among them, the Commerce Ministry has confirmed.
However, members of the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) last week opened the way for India to return to negotiations without having to start the process anew, said Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the ministry’s Department of Trade Negotiations.
He was speaking after last week’s RCEP teleconference between ministers for all 10 Asean countries and their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
India withdrew from the announcement of successful negotiations during the RCEP summit hosted by Thailand at the end of 2019, sparking concern that the Asian giant’s trade deficit with RCEP member countries could grow.
"When refining of the agreement’s legal language is completed, every member-country must prepare for the signing. Thai negotiators will request approval from the Cabinet before signing the agreement. Then, it will be put to the House of Representatives for another approval.
"To be implemented, the pact requires agreement from more than half of Asean members and more than half of the negotiating parties. We expect the pact to come into force in the middle of 2021." said Auramon.
She added that the RCEP will become the largest free trade agreement (FTA) in the world. RCEP members have a combined population of nearly 3.6 billion people or 48.1 per cent of the world population.
In 2019, RCEP members had a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over US$28.5 trillion or 32.7 per cent of global GDP, with total trade value of more than $11.2 trillion or 29.5 per cent of world trade value.