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India to resist tariff cuts at RCEP meeting


India to resist tariff cuts at RCEP meeting
NEW DELHI: Firm on protecting their domestic markets, India, South Korea and China will make a coordinated push to resist demands for significant tariff concessions sought by other countries under the 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). 
All the participating countries will meet on Monday for the seventh round of negotiations in Thailand. Japan, Australia and New Zealand want these three countries, which have big domestic markets, to open up 80% product lines for imports. India, China and South Korea are keen to limit it to 40% of the product lines. India will likely keep dairy, textiles, automobiles, machinery, rubber, spices and steel out of the initial offer for regional cooperation and economic partnership. RCEP is a proposed comprehensive free-trade pact among 10 Asean countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — and the six partners with which they have free-trade agreements (FTAs)—Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. 
"South Korea and China bringing down their offer from opening 80% tariff lines to 40% gives weight to our stand," said a government official. "We have worked on a negative list where broad sectors include agri products, dairy, textiles, among others." 
The pact seeks to cover goods, services, investments, competition and intellectual property, and is targeted for conclusion by the end of 2015. 

"We are not against ambition but want to keep initial offer low as we can't throw open most sectors for countries with whom we don't have FTA yet, such as China, Australia and New Zealand," the official added. "For example, we may like to open 80% tariff lines for Asean, but not even 60% for Australia and China," he explained. India has so far signed FTAs with Asean, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, and is negotiating pacts with New Zealand and Australia. 
India has avoided a pact with China for fear of its manufacturing industry getting hurt. Along with Japan and South Korea, India made a joint proposal at the last meeting in Delhi on the modalities of the agreement on goods. 
India is pushing for a simultaneous agreement on goods and services, whereas some countries have shown willingness to conclude a pact on goods first. There appear differences in the services pact where India, backed by six Asean countries, want a positive list approach to the offer, where the commitment to open certain services is listed.




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