RCEP Ministerial Meeting Current Affairs - 2020

RCEP to meet again as India fails to agree on a common ground

The RCEP – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership hosted meeting on October 11 and 12, 2019 in Xinhua Thailand. The trade ministers of 16 nations met and discussed on economic affairs in the region. However, due to India’s tough stand on market access, e – commerce and investment the grouping will meet once again.

RCEP includes 10 members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and six Asia – Pacific countries that includes Australia, India, China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

India’s Demands

  • India wants its concerns on investment, e – commerce, taxation, MSME and policies framed by local bodies to be reworked before it signs the deal.
  • India wants its Chinese imports to be checked via automatic safeguards
  • It demanded favorable rules on investments
  • The Policy changes on Indian Taxation System should not be challenged
  • The policies framed for local bodies should not be questioned
  • E – Commerce talks are still underway with Japan and needs to be addressed.


  • Negotiators to sort differences by October 19 ahead of November 4 (The RCEP Summit)
  • India participated in deliberations to promote trade and investment to achieve mutual economic growth. Out of 25 deliberations, 6 are remaining. It includes e – commerce, investment, trade remedies, competition and rules of origin
  • A TNC – Trade Negotiations Committee is to be set up.


There is strong opposition against RCEP in India by the domestic constituencies like diary cooperatives (Amul), farmer organizations, industrial sectors and civil society organizations. This is mainly because, they fear that the Indian market will be flooded by cheap Chinese goods and farm items, especially from New Zealand and Australia.

The GoI has asked to keep the commerce ministry out of dairy sector out of the proposed RCEP free trade pact. This is because opening of free trade in dairy sector will affect farmers in India, the largest producer of milk.


RCEP Ministerial meeting fails to reach consensus on e-commerce, investment

RCEP Ministerial meeting at Singapore failed to reach a consensus on chapters related to e-commerce, competition and investment, though progress was made on several other issues. India was represented by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu. This summit was followed by Leaders’ Summit.

Outcomes of meeting

  • The ministerial meeting took stock of state of negotiations across various chapters and also assessed the progress on ‘The Package of Year End Deliverables’.
  • The ministers acknowledged good progress made negotiations so far with successful conclusion of 5 chapters this year alone, taking total to 7 chapters, namely
  1. Economic and Technical Cooperation
  2. Small and Medium Enterprises.
  3. Customs Procedures and Trade Facilitation.
  4. Government Procurement; Institutional Provisions.
  5. Standards, Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures (STRACAP).
  6. Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS).
  • India’s interests were effectively defended and secured maximum flexibilities in both STRACAP and SPS negotiations. It also managed to obtain balanced outcomes in application of the Dispute Settlement Mechanism.
  • India also showed flexibility on principle of ‘consensus’ in Institutional Provisions Chapter which helped in its successful conclusion during the meeting.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

  • RCEP is proposed free trade agreement (FTA) or comprehensive regional economic integration agreement between 10-ASEAN countries and its six FTA partners.
  • 10 ASEAN countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and its six FTA partners are Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan and Korea.
  • Its negotiations were formally launched at 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. It aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights under its ambit.
  • Till 2017, 16 RCEP member states accounted for population of 3.4 billion people with total GDP (in terms of PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 38% of world’s GDP and 29% of world trade.