RCEP is a regional trade agreement amongst the ASEAN and the countries with which they have trade agreements. This agreement got solidified by 15 member countries signing it on the 14th of November 2020. The purpose of this agreement was to make an easy movement of goods of products among these countries.
But, despite having a promising future, India which is a giant player in the south, and the southeast Asian region did not wish to participate in it, opted out from its negotiation process last November.
India complained that RCEP was not paying any heed to the concerns raised by India. The country’s main concern was to safeguard its Agricultural industry and to give a push to its service sector but it was not adequately considered at the forum.
Over and above, the growing dominance of China in the forum was also a concern. One of the major concerns of India being the fear of increased exposure of Chinese products to the Indian market without adequate protections in place.
No matter how genuine India’s concerns were, it will cost the country in some way or the other. It can affect the bilateral agreements with the RCEP member nations as they might be more inclined towards building trade within the bloc.
This can result in a mammoth loss because the large region is a habitat of more than 2 billion people. It will be interesting to see how Indian diplomacy and the trading acumen will prevent the country from this anticipated loss.
Having said all of these things, there is always a chance for India to accept the RCEP agreement and to agree with all the countries in the agreement except China. This is because the other countries are neither hostile towards India nor Indian business.
But this window of leverage will depend on the role China plays in the agreement, which calls for a carefully crafted diplomacy. Indian prime minister and the external affairs have been careful in maintaining their relations with all these countries till now. The future will stand witness to the fact that how India will pull off this agreement and how bilateral trade diplomacy will pan out.