Don’t derail economic pact, Chinese daily tells India

Beijing, Jan 18 (IANS) India should stop being selfish and not block the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), an influential Chinese daily said on Wednesday.

The free trade agreement could not only boost India’s economic stamina but also extend the supply chain in Asia and instil new vigour in regional growth, a Global Times commentary said.

“Only by seeking greater market liberalization can India sustain economic momentum and prepare to emerge as a regional power,” it said.

“It is time for New Delhi to push forward the RCEP and open India to the outside world as Chinese leaders did decades ago when China joined the WTO.”

The daily referred to quarrelling among RCEP partners, “especially India (which) is reluctant to open up its markets”.

The 16-member free trade pact links the Association of Southeast Asian nations with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

The Times said it would create one of the world’s largest trading blocs accounting for 40 percent of global trade with a combined GDP of $23 trillion.

It said negotiations had dragged on with the initial deadline extended from the end of 2016 to the end of 2017.

“India has always been a tough negotiator and sees opening its domestic markets to cheaper goods from other countries, especially China, as a serious threat.

“With an average tariff level of 15 percent, India feels huge pressure to reduce tariffs dramatically to zero or less than 3 percent.”

The daily said India needed to reform and open its market to attract foreign investment and integrate itself to the global supply chain.

“It would be narrow-minded for India to believe that the RCEP could benefit China or other members more.

“Whether India’s growth can be sustained depends on how quickly it realizes that the only feasible route is to open its market and contribute to regional integration and economic development,” it added.

“It is time for India to decide whether it wants to be serious in forging progress in RCEP talks and expand its influence through more active involvement in regional economic affairs.”