Beijing: 15 countries, along with China, signed the ‘Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership’ (RCEP) agreement, in a virtual meeting held on Sunday. China had presented the concept eight years ago. But after that, two leading countries, India and the United States had decided to withdraw from the agreement. The signing of this agreement, becomes significant, while there is a rising discontent regarding China, given the Coronavirus pandemic.
Along with the ten south-east Asian countries, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand signed the RCEP agreement. Participation of countries, accounting for nearly 30% of the global economy, in this agreement, is considered to be the highlight of the agreement. Taking GDP into account, this becomes the largest trade agreement in the world. The RCEP which was started on a Chinese initiative, sets objectives as, reduction in trade taxes, opening up opportunities in the service sector and promoting investment. But the agreement is silent on the issues of environment and rights of workers. The agreement will come into effect in the next two years after a minimum of 9 countries accepts the agreement. The countries who have participated in the agreement, have said in the joint statement that this agreement will assist in recovering from the economic crisis, created by the Coronavirus pandemic.
China bragged that the signing of this agreement is a historic victory. As per some economists, the RCEP underlines the increasing Chinese influence. But some analysts have said that the RCEP has not reached the final stage. Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga said that Japan would make efforts for Indian partnership in the agreement. Last year, India decided to withdraw from the agreement.
India who was a part of the group initially, withdrew from the agreement, last year. India decided to withdraw from the agreement saying some of the issues are still unresolved. India had expressed a concern that singing this agreement will throw open the Indian marketplace to the cheap Chinese products. The Indian government had taken a stern stand that India will not sign the agreement unless all the Indian objections and concerns are addressed and resolved. The Chinese mouthpiece criticised that India has missed the bus for economic progress.