India still has some “critical” unresolved issues with the 16-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the government said on Thursday, and hoped that negotiations over the weekend — ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Thailand — will “clarify” matters. Briefing journalists on the Prime Minister’s visit to Bangkok from November 2-4 to attend the RCEP Summit, ASEAN-India Summit and the East Asia Summit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said India had “participated constructively” in RCEP negotiations over the years.
“There are obviously some critical issues still outstanding and efforts are being made to try and resolve them to provide a fair and transparent trading environment. These issues are extremely important for our economy and livelihood of our people,” said Secretary (East) Vijay Thakur Singh.
“India remains engaged to find a resolution of these issues and we expect greater clarity after the ministerial meeting and RCEP summit,” she added.
Diplomats from other RCEP countries — which includes the 10-nation ASEAN and their FTA partners, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — have said India is now the only country holding out against committing to concluding RCEP on Monday during the summit.
On Saturday, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal is expected to participate in the RCEP ministerial meeting, where a last attempt will be made to bring India on board.
According to an official from one of the countries tasked with convincing India to sign, they are hopeful that even if Mr. Modi refuses to sign on to the main RCEP agreement, India would initiate an “agreement in principle” to join, along with a commitment to “continue negotiations” with the others.