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India urges speedier RCEP negotiations


India is of the view that negotiations on services for the free trade agreement by the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are not picking pace and has proposed an RCEP business visa card to ensure smooth movement of businessmen of member countries.

Following the RCEP trade ministers meeting held in Hanoi on May 21-22, an Indian Commerce Ministry release here on Tuesday said "several areas still required to be negotiated to finality".

At the meeting, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman "urged member countries to work towards liberalisation across all modes of services, including movement of professionals in Mode 4, in line with the RCEP Guiding Principles".

Talking to reporters following the meeting held in the Vietnam capital, Sitharaman told reporters that negotiations on services are not picking up pace with the progress in goods.

She also indicated that the negotiations might not conclude this year and move into the first half of 2018.

The members have aimed at concluding the negotiations, which started in 2012, by end of 2017.

On the visa issue, Sitharaman said: "We have actually given a proposal for RCEP business card. So we have proposed that for business people, like APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) member countries have APEC business cards, similarly we have asked for RCEP members."A

She pointed out that a selective approach to the detriment of services would not be in the best interest of RCEP negotiations, "and would be failing to acknowledge, promote and protect the strength and mutually beneficial nature of the current relationship".

The 19th round RCEP negotiating committee talks are being organised by India in July in Hyderabad.

RCEP comprises 10 ASEAN members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam) and their six FTA partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.