On November 16th, 15 countries, representing 2.1 billion people and 29% of the global GDP, signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest trade pact in the world.India, however, was a notable absentee and opted out of the pact last year. Before taking the easy route and berating the government for missing another opportunity, it’s fair to say that there are legitimate concerns with this deal.
For one, many Indian citizens, whether motivated politically or through genuine concerns were against such a partnership with fears that the market would be flooded with cheaper imported goods against which the local manufacturers could not compete.
Additionally, the deal itself is not as extensive as the comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and is unlikely to kick start an instantaneous economic recovery, which is of a higher priority for India given the pandemic. Moreover, Japan and others have left the door open for India if the country wishes to join the deal again in the coming years, especially because there was hope that India’s presence could counter the dominance of China in the trade deal.
However, it’s safe to say that the chances of India re-joining this deal are negligible. The ongoing border disputes with China make it impossible for the current government to agree to any new deals involving India’s neighbour.