India has said the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will enhance flow of trade and investment, create employment and bridge the development gaps among the 16 Asia-Pacific countries.
Ministers of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their six regional partners (India, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand) discussed at the Brunei capital ways to proceed with negotiations on lowering and eliminating tariffs for the creation of one of the world's largest free trade blocs.
"India firmly believes that greater economic integration among participating countries will boost economic growth, enhance flow of trade and investment, create employment opportunities and bring down the development gaps among the countries," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said while taking part in the meeting which began Monday.
"Besides hoping to carve out a niche for itself in the regional value chains, India expects to benefit from the large integrated market for services and investments."
The RCEP economies announced the start of talks in November 2012 and held the first round of working-level negotiations in May, aiming to conclude a deal by 2015.
Sharma said the diversity in the economies of the RCEP demanded cooperation and compromise among the participants. "India, while maintaining a single schedule, will need adequate flexibility to address her sensitivities which may differ for each individual participating country."
Besides the Trade Negotiating Committee, Working Groups were established for Trade in Goods, Trade in Services and Investment. The TNC has finalised the Scoping Paper and the three working groups, namely on trade in goods, trade in services and investment, have initiated discussions towards finalising the approach and modalities for the negotiations.
The RCEP envisages regional economic integration leading to the creation of a trading bloc amounting for almost 45 per cent of the world population with a combined GDP of $21.4 trillion. This will greatly facilitate the development of regional supply chains and increase the efficiency and competitiveness of the manufacturing industry in this region with a view to jointly improve their global standing.
It is a comprehensive arrangement involving agreements in areas like trade in goods, trade in services and investment.
The second round of RCEP negotiations will be held in Brisbanefrom Sept 24 to 27.