India can benefit from RCEP with a hard bargain: Kishore Mahbubani

By: | Updated: January 19, 2017 7:55 PM

India and China have a great role to play in taking forward the Asian growth story by engaging in regional cooperation and eventually boost the global trade, business leaders and economists said today.

India can also benefit from RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) if it does a hard bargain, noted economist Kishore Mahbubani said while adding that China needs to take the key role in getting RCEP done. (Image Source: Website/World Economic Forum)India can also benefit from RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) if it does a hard bargain, noted economist Kishore Mahbubani said while adding that China needs to take the key role in getting RCEP done. (Image Source: Website/World Economic Forum)

India and China have a great role to play in taking forward the Asian growth story by engaging in regional cooperation and eventually boost the global trade, business leaders and economists said today.

India can also benefit from RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) if it does a hard bargain, noted economist Kishore Mahbubani said while adding that China needs to take the key role in getting RCEP done.

“No trade agreement moves unless it has a champion,” he noted.

Speaking at an WEF session on Asia, he also said Donald Trump is shooting America in the foot by backing out of TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

Trump will be sworn in as US President tomorrow.

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New York University Economics Professor Nouriel Roubini said that without TPP, of course there will be trade relations with Asia, but not the big impact that TPP would have had.

A majority of the panelists, including Roubini, as also the majority of the audience, did not however agree that China is already the new global leader.

Roubini said China is emerging as a leader, but is not yet “the leader”.

Malaysian airline company AirAsia’s chief Tony Fernandes said there is a great opportunity for India and China in giving a boost to regional cooperation as well as Asia while groupings like ASEAN can also have a big role to play.

“Clearly, globalisation has made the world a better place and I am very much in favour of it,” he said.

Malaysia’s Minister for International Trade and Industry Mustapa Mohamed said India and China are very important in taking forward Asian growth story.

The panelists discussed how Asia’s economic journey will continue as prospects for global trade darken.

On whether China is the global leader now, the facts and figures show the US remains the number one and China is the number two as of now, Mahbubani said.

He, however, admitted that there is indeed a vacuum at the leadership position and it needs to be seen who fills it.
Mahbubani said ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) also has a great potential though a lot of people generally focus mostly on India and China.

Fernandes agreed with Mahbubani that ASEAN is an incredible story.

The economist said ASEAN is not about countering India or China and has been playing a critical role in bringing together Asia.

He said further that ASEAN has even played a great role in the China growth story by facilitating regional trade in a big way.

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According to Mahbubani, China needs to play a proactive role, going forward, if it wants to take on global leadership role.

Fernandes said he gets confused when Trump talks about bringing back jobs when the American economy is already doing great, innovating in all fields, including in driverless electric cars, and they already have one of the lowest unemployment rates.

Panelists opined that with the US looking set to step back from the international arena, China would likely take on a larger role to preserve the global economic system.

While acknowledging that future looks distinctly multipolar, with no single leader emerging to fill the leadership vacuum created by a US retreat, they said it is important that space is made for the rise of Asia and other centres of power.

Malaysia’s Minister Mustapa Mohamed said the US withdrawal from the TPP would certainly have an impact on the world economy.

China, India and ASEAN are growing fast, confident in their potential, and focused on creating jobs and making growth equitable and sustainable, he noted.

Li Daokui, Dean at Schwarzman College at China’s Tsinghua University said TPP was essentially a flawed idea because it makes no sense for a country far from the region to try to forge relations while bypassing China.

Noting that China would be the natural leader of economic integration in the region, he said China and ASEAN see eye- to-eye on this. This only leaves India, although China is keen to “get everybody on the bicycle … and pedal hard”, he added.

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