ASEAN Current Affairs - 2020

RCEP Member States hope India will Rejoin the Proposed Trade Agreement

A virtual inter-sessional ministerial meeting of the proposed free trade agreement of a group of 15 countries from the Indo Pacific region- Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was conducted on 23rd June 2020. Apart from the 10 ASEAN countries, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and China are the 15 countries that are negotiating for the free trade agreement.

Since the outbreak of the global pandemic in March 2020, this was the 3rd major RCEP meet, earlier the 29th and the 30th RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee meeting were conducted in the months of April and May in which all the 15 participating countries have reaffirmed to sign the agreement in 2020.

The economic crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought has accelerated the RCEP negotiations over the last months as all the 15 countries under the negotiating agreement are looking for a larger market for their economic recovery. As a result, India with a population of more than 130 crores is being recognized as a valuable participant under the free trade agreement.

In a joint statement released after the ministerial-level meeting of RCEP countries on 24th June 2020, it was stated that the RCEP group remains open for India, the participation of India in RCEP will contribute to the prosperity and overall advancement of the region.

India’s stance to RCEP

India pulled out of the RCEP group in November 2019 as opening up the market through this free trade agreement can put the domestic manufacturers and producers of India at risk of getting swamped by imports from China.

Also, India has already a trade deficit with 11 out of the 15 countries participating in the RCEP agreement.

India-ASEAN Youth Dialogue

The third India-ASEAN Youth Dialogue as held between June 8, 2020 and June 10, 2020. The dialogue was held in virtual mode.

Highlights

During the dialogue, India and ASEAN enhanced cooperation constructively in skill development, youthful energy and education. These areas were identified as strategic partnership between the two countries at the dialogue. The leaders also acknowledged re-establishment of Nalanda University. The Nalanda University has been offering several scholarship programmes for the ASEAN students.

Why Youth?

India has the largest youth population in the world. Around 65% of its population are below the age of 35 years. There are more than 450 million people that are in the age group of 15 to 35 years. ASEAN has also been witnessing largest population with around 213 million youth.

Significance

The Dialogue also complemented the ongoing youth-centric initiatives. Around 2,500 ASEAN youths are engaged in student exchange programmes in India. This includes special courses for young ASEAN Diplomats, exchange programmes for young farmers, programmes for young parliamentarians and media exchange programmes.

Background

ASEAN has been India’s utmost priority under its Act East Policy. There are 10 countries in ASEAN grouping. The organization focuses on military, education, socio-cultural integration, security. It was created in 1967 by 5 countries namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.