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(November 8, 2019) RCEP without India poses new hurdles

On the face of it, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is an Indo-Pacific trade pact that would shore up the stalled world trade liberalisation and stem the rising tide of protectionism in the global economy. India's withdrawal from the RCEP -- whose other 15 members comprise the 10 Asean economies along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand -- is a major setback, posing new challenges for the Asean-centred trade bloc. Asean should persuade India to return to the RCEP fold, while preparing for a much less promising RCEP15 as second-best outcome.

Around midyear during the 34th Asean Summit, it looked like RCEP had a chance to be finalised by year-end. Most of its chapters under negotiations were being completed in an expeditious fashion. Expectations were raised that RCEP could be achieved under Thailand's chairmanship. If realised accordingly, RCEP would represent around one third of global GDP and 40% of global trade. It would link up the three largest Asian economies -- China, Japan, and India -- through freer trade, yielding interdependent benefits for regional peace and stability.