ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) member countries – Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – are looking forward to finalize the procedural legalities for the summit to be held in November. The members are keen on speeding up RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) negotiations in time so that the summit can happen well in time, scheduled during the month of November.

The ASEAN delegation visiting India next week will deliberate upon finalizing the RCEP negotiations with India so that the pact can be signed before the year-end. Projected as the world’s biggest trade deal, the RCEP comprising of 10 ASEAN countries with its 6 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners: India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea, make upto 45% of the world’s population and account for 33% of its GDP, which is a significantly huge number.

Many policy-makers in India are in favour of the deal, in view of the larger markets that RCEP will open up and give access. But some analysts are also sceptical of the fact that India needs to protect its economy from the flooding of cheap good imports from China. As out of all the countries in the RCEP, India is the only country not been involved in any bilateral or multilateral negotiations with China for an FTA.

Although the final decision will be made by the Indian government, last year it had asked for the deadline to be moved to 2019 in view of the Lok Sabha elections. Modi government since the time it has come to power has been pressing for its ‘Act East Policy’ and had called the head of state from the 10 ASEAN nations as Chief Guests during India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2018.

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