Exploring trade deals with US, EU: Goyal

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal

New Delhi,  Asserting that India decided not to be part of the RCEP in view of larger interests of the domestic economy and huge deficit trade balance, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said India is exploring trade agreements with USA & European Union and also reviewing Free Trade Agreements with Japan, Korea & ASEAN.

“Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Japan, South Korea and ASEAN countries are being reviewed. The review of the FTA with South Korea which began three years back is being fast tracked. India has already secured agreement in ASEAN for a review of the FTA and a Joint Working Group (JWG) is discussing the issues to be addressed in Japan FTA,” Goyal said in a media meet called to hail the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to not to be part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Earlier this month Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said review of FTA with Asean will help balance trade. Government think tank, Niti Aayog, had said India’s trade deficit with Asean, Korea and Japan has widened post-FTAs.

RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and its five (formerly six) FTA partners (China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand).

He said India’s key demands were balanced trade deficit, better market access of the Indian goods and services and protection of the industries from unfair trade practices.

Goyal said that as of now the decision of not to be part of RCEP is final but if all our demands are met that will strengthen the Indian industry and offer more scope for growth, better local markets to the Indian industry without adversely affecting India’s interests, without allowing surge of imports, without allowing India to be dumping ground for other countries but will open up opportunities for our goods and services and our investments in this region and the balance of trade deficit that India is suffering, every government is always open to discussions and negotiations.

Assuring that India will never finalise any trade agreement in a hurry. During trade negotiations the focus will be on India first, the Minister said.

He said that India’s economic interests and national priorities come first and the concerns of the farmers, dairy sector, MSMEs and domestic manufacturing will be addressed and these sectors will be protected.

Throughout the seven year long negotiations in RCEP India has consistently stood its ground to uphold its demands particularly over controlling trade deficit, stronger protection against unfair imports and better market opportunities for Indian goods and services, he said.

“The opening up of the Indian market must be matched by openings in areas where our businesses can benefit and India will not allow its market to become a dumping ground for goods from other countries,” said the Minister.

Replying to questions, he said that at present India is exploring trade agreements with the US and European Union, where Indian industry and services will be competitive and benefit from access to large developed markets.