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India’s RCEP Decision Misguided, Says Congressional Leader Anand Sharma


Taking a divergent position from his party, Congressional leader Anand Sharma said on Tuesday that India’s decision not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Association (RCEP) was “unfortunate and ill-advised.”

He insisted that it was in the country’s strategic and economic interest to be part of the Asia-Pacific integration process.

The president of Congress, Sonia Gandhi, had declared last year that the signing of the RCEP agreement will be a “blow to the body” for the economy and will result in “incalculable difficulties” for farmers, traders and small businesses.

“Arrogant attitude has a price, a price that millions of our compatriots, especially unemployed youth and farmers, are having to bear. As if the economic decisions had not damaged the economy enough, now it is ready to deal a serious blow by signing the RCEP, ”he had told party leaders at a meeting.

Sonia Gandhi also said that the RCEP will result in incalculable difficulties for farmers, traders and small and medium-sized businesses.

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But on November 4 last year, India pulled out of the RCEP mega free trade deal as negotiations failed to address New Delhi’s outstanding issues and concerns. The remaining 15 member countries had signed the RCEP agreement and have declared that the agreement would remain open to India.

Congress had then proclaimed itself victorious, saying its vigorous opposition ensured that the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would withdraw from bartering the interests of farmers, dairy farmers, fishermen and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.

“Our voice played an important role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden and hypocritical discovery of Gandhiji’s talisman in Bangkok,” Sonia Gandhi later said, at a meeting of the Congressional Parliamentary Party at the House of Parliament compound in November. from last year.

But on Tuesday, Sharma, one of 23 congressional dissidents who wrote a letter to the party chief in August this year seeking internal elections and an organizational review, struck a divergent note. “India’s decision not to join RCEP is unfortunate and ill-advised. It is in India’s strategic and economic interest to be part of the Asia-Pacific integration process, ”he said.

“The withdrawal has negated years of persuasive negotiations for India to be accepted as part of RCEP,” Sharma added.

“We could have negotiated safeguards to protect our interests. Staying out of the RCEP is a setback, ”said Sharma, who had been closely involved in the RCEP negotiations in his capacity as minister of trade and industry in the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh.

Former Finance Minister and Congressional Leader P Chidambaram also voiced his views that India will not join the RCEP on Tuesday, but said he would give a final opinion only when his party has taken a considered position on the issue.

“Many have noted my cautious tweet yesterday about India not being a member of RCEP. Every English newspaper I read has published an editorial today saying India would be better off if it were part of RCEP, ”he tweeted.

“I would reserve a final opinion until the Congress party has taken a considered position on the issue,” Chidambaram said.

But he expressed dismay at the remarks by Foreign Minister S Jaishankar at the Deccan Dialogue on Monday, saying that the minister “criticized trade agreements and praised the virtues of protectionism.”

“Mr. Jaishankar is speaking in the language and in the words that I heard in the 1970s and 1980s!” Chidambaram said in a series of tweets. On Monday, he had tweeted: “RCEP was born, it is the largest commercial body in the world. 15 nations in our region are members of RCEP, India is not among them. There are pros and cons of India joining the RCEP, but the debate has never taken place in Parliament or among the people or involving opposition parties, ”he said.

“It’s another bad example of unacceptable centralized decision-making in a democracy,” Chidambaram added.

Hindustan Times