Australia remains eager to keep door open for India to join RCEP in future: Australian trade minister

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Updated: Feb 24, 2020 8:51 PM

After years of negotiations, India in November pulled out of the proposed RCEP over unresolved "core concerns" at a summit meeting of the participating countries in Bangkok.

trade, rcepThe original RCEP was aiming to facilitate the creation of the biggest free-trade region in the world as the 16-nation grouping is home to 3.6 billion people, or nearly half the world’s population.

Australia remains eager to “keep the door” open for India to join RCEP in future, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said on Monday.

Birmingham, who is leading a business delegation to India, said he met Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday and held discussions with him on a range of issues, including India’s decision to withdraw from Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“We talked about the decision of India to not proceed with the RCEP at this point in time. Australia remains eager to keep the door open for India to join RCEP in future, should it wish, but we respect India’s decisions and acknowledge that it is India’s sovereign right.

“If India decides not to stay with RCEP then we want to make sure our relations with India are as strong as possible and that is why we remain open to looking at where we got our negotiations in the RCEP umbrella and see if there is any scope to build upon,” 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 pulled out of the proposed RCEP over unresolved “core concerns” at a summit meeting of the participating countries in Bangkok.

The original RCEP was aiming to facilitate the creation of the biggest free-trade region in the world as the 16-nation grouping is home to 3.6 billion people, or nearly half the world’s population.

“We want to see India ideally in RCEP at some stage, we hope we keep that door open. In terms of bilateral discussions with India, we will continue that. We see we have made much progress in relation to RCEP discussion,” he said.

Birmingham, who is on a four-day visit to India, said the strength of India-Australia strategic relationship is seen not only in areas such as security and strategic cooperation but also in terms of trade and investment ties.

“We have seen doubling over of two-way trade as well as doubling of investment flows,” he added.

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