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Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership | RCEP in 2022

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Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

10 ASEAN members and their FTA partner nations(Free Trade Agreement) decided to form a regional economic grouping, which they termed as RCEP. Presently it have 15 member nations.


At ASEAN summit hosted by Vietnam on 15th Nov 2020.

About RCEP

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

10 ASEAN members and their FTA partner nations(Free Trade Agreement) decided to form a regional economic grouping, which they termed as RCEP. Presently it have 15 member nations.


Presently it have 15 member nations.

10 ASEAN members: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia. And their FTA Partners: Australia, China, Korea, Japan, New Zealand.

Download RCEP Map


  • This group of 15 nations decided to create a integrated market economy in which goods and services trade can occur freely and with limited boundation.
  • MEGA trade deal: it can be termed as mega because of the number of nations involved and their cumulative economy as well population.
  • Cumulative population of RCEP member nation: 30% of world’s population
  • Cumulative GDP of RCEP member nation: 30% of world’s GDP.
  • Trans Pacific partnership was considered as the biggest trade partnership in current times but India and China were not party to it. So China backed RCEP with all its might to increase its stature further.


Lets see India RCEP issue


There are various reasons for India opting not to join RCEP, here is a summary of top reasons:

1.Trade deficit

India has already signed FTA with all the members of RCEP, excluding china and analysis of the post FTA trade shows that India still have trade deficit with all the members of RCEP. So basically its not FTAs which requires attention but the domestic industries promotion and growth which requires more attention.

2. Auto trigger mechanism Rejected by RCEP

As and when imports rise to such a level that it starts negatively impacting the domestic industries, the Auto trigger mechanism can save the situation by automatically blocking imports that hurts the domestic industries. This clause was not accepted by the RCEP, which is not acceptable to India

3. Protection of Domestic industries

The RCEP binds the countries to reduce current level of tariffs on imports to zero within 15 years. This clause will leave Indian domestic industries  open to onslaught of cheap imports and ultimately to destruction of indigenous industries especially the MSME.

For example: Dairy products from New Zealand and Australia are of high quality as well as cheap, this will put Indian dairy industry at backfoot. Similarly the cheap steel from china.

4. Rule of origin

Rule of origin specifies tariffs on a product based on the nation in which product is produced. Current provisions in the RCEP does not prevent countries from circumventing their products from other countries.

India demands strict rules of origin so that it can prevent countries like China from flooding Indian market, by circumventing their products, through other nations of RCEP which have lower tariff rates.

5. Chinese Angle

RCEP is considered an agreement through which China wants to increase its clout in the Indian ocean region and Asia, India has trade deficit with china which is greater then combined trade deficit of India with all other RCEP member put together, So giving more access to china will further impact our trade deficit.

6. Opening up Market access to India

India excels in service sector but the RCEP deal does not offer greater market access in service sector especially involving movement of natural persons, which is a deal breaker for India.  

Few basic question about FTAs

Question: What is/are Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)?

Answer: FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries or trading blocs that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate customs tariff and non tariff barriers on substantial trade between them. FTAs, normally cover trade in goods (such as agricultural or industrial products) or trade in services (such as banking, construction, trading etc.). FTAs can also cover other areas such as intellectual property rights (IPRs), investment, government procurement and competition policy, etc.

Question: Which are the major  FTAs /CEPAs/ PTAs of India?

S. No.AcronymGroupingsNo.Member Countries FTAs/PTAs
1APTAAsia Pacific Trade Agreement5Bangladesh, China, India, Re public of Korea, Sri Lanka. –PTA
2India ASEAN TIGIndia ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement11Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and India.FTA
3BIMSTECBangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation7Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.Under negotiations
4GSTPGlobal System of Trade Preferences44Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe.PTA
5IBSAIndia Brazil and South Africa3India, Brazil and South Africa.Under negotiations
6SAFTASouth Asia Free Trade Agreement7India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the MaldivesFTA
7ISLFTAIndo Sri Lanka FTA2Sri Lanka, IndiaFTA
8IMCECAIndo Malaysia CECA2Malaysia, IndiaFTA
9ISCECAIndia Singapore CECA2Singapore, IndiaFTA
10JICEPAJapan India CEPA2Japan, IndiaFTA
11IKCEPAIndia Korea CEPA2South Korea, IndiaFTA

Way ahead for India considering RCEP?

FTA with countries did boost our trade but in reality they have increased the trade deficit for India, which underscores important lesson for India i.e. to strengthen our domestic industries so that they can increase the export from India and also decrease our trade deficit.  

Doors of RCEP is always open for India, as its members have openly stated. So strengthening  our economy by reforms in Land, Labour and Capital factors, improving on Innovation Index, Ease of Doing Business Index, Targeted Export Promotion policies is the way forward.

Official RCEP Website

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