‘RCEP free trade deal will help Indian commerce, industry’

New Delhi : Underlining the crucial role of regional trade agreements for India to emerge as a manufacturing hub, Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher Tuesday said the free trade agreement being negotiated by the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would help India to boost its commerce and manufacturing.

“My message here is that regional integration is extremely important and India must work towards it. It is India’s time to take advantage of this. If you don’t do that, we will lose the regional chain, and it is a great opportunity for us,” Kher said here at a conference jointly organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

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The 16-member RCEP comprises 10 Asean members and its six FTA partners namely India, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The RCEP negotiations began in Cambodia in November 2012.

Kher said the RCEP is crucial for the Indian industry at a time when developed economies are negotiating mega free trade deals like the Trade and Investment Partnership (TIP) and Transatlantic Trade and Partnership (TTP).

“Preferential trading systems in the form of mega trade arrangements have been evolved in the last few years. It is a clear sign of new architecture of global trading which is emerging and RCEP is clearly complimenting to this new architecture,” Kher said.

Addressing the conference, JETRO chairman Hiroyuki Ishige emphasised the need for regional integration in Asia under the RCEP umbrella.

“India’s potential as a manufacturing hub can be realised through broad-based supply chain linkages, unification of business rules and the integration of services into the value chain”, Ishige said.

“Reforms are key as the old trade and industrial policies will not see India emerge as a hub for competitive manufacturing”, he added.

India has so far entered into free trade agreements (FTAs) with Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and the Asean group.

Ishige, who is accompanied by a delegation of Japanese businessmen, also met Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman here Tuesday.