Union Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has hit out at the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, after the latter tried cornering the Modi government over the ongoing RCEP deal negotiations. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement between the ten ASEAN countries and its six FTA partners, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Once finalised, the RCEP will emerge as the world’s largest economic bloc covering a population of 3.4 billion with a total GDP of $ 49.5 trillion.
At a time, when the Modi government has made it clear that it will see to it that national interest is protected in RCEP negotiations, the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi has launched a tirade against the Modi government. She said that signing the RCEP will result in “untold hardship” for farmers, shopkeepers and small enterprises.
She made this remark while addressing a meeting at the AICC headquarters. She also said, “As economic decisions have not damaged the economy enough, it is now ready to deal a body blow to it by signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) – the regional free trade agreement of 16 Asian countries.”
In retort, Union Minister and senior BJP leader, Piyush Goyal has hit out at Sonia Gandhi over her abovementioned remarks. Goyal has also exposed how it was the UPA government which had joined the RCEP negotiations, and now the Congress has suddenly realised that it is detrimental to India’s interests.
In a series of tweets, he said, “Smt. Sonia Gandhi ji has suddenly woken up to RCEP and FTAs. So where was she – When FTA with ASEAN was signed in 2010? When FTA with South Korea was signed in 2010? When FTA with Malaysia was signed in 2011? When FTA with Japan was signed in 2011?”
Slamming Sonia Gandhi over her remarks, Piyush Goyal also said, “So where was she – When trade deficit with RCEP nations increased from $7 Billion in 2004 to $78 Billion in 2014? When her Govt forced India to join RCEP negotiations with China in 2011-12.”
Exposing how the Congress-led UPA government had opened up India’s markets to ASEAN countries and there was no real opposition by Sonia Gandhi against giving such trade concessions, “So where was she When her Govt. opened 74% of its market to ASEAN countries but richer countries like Indonesia opened only 50% for India? Why did she not speak against giving larger concessions to richer countries.”
Smt. Sonia Gandhi ji has suddenly woken up to RCEP and FTAs.
So where was she
– When trade deficit with RCEP nations increased from $7 Billion in 2004 to $78 Billion in 2014?
– When her Govt forced India to join RCEP negotiations with China in 2011-12. 1/5
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) November 2, 2019
There is some hesitation regarding the RCEP within India. Some sections of industry feel that India stands to gain as the country can tap into a huge market, giving room for access to newer markers in case domestic competition is too intense. Pharmaceutical and cotton yarn sectors are confident of benefitting from the RCEP. The services sector also seems set to gain out of the RCEP. However, there are some other sections of the industry which fear that the RCEP will create cheaper alternatives from other countries, and therefore these sectors are somewhat reluctant towards the RCEP. The Modi government is negotiating to ensure that India’s interest is protected and none of the sectors stand to lose on account of the RCEP deal, which has entered the final stages of negotiation.
It ought to be mentioned here that it was the Manmohan Singh government which decided to take part in the RCEP negotiations in 2012. In fact, the then PM Manmohan Singh had announced India’s full commitment towards the RCEP. Addressing the 8th East Asia Summit in Brunei in October 2013, he had said, “the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, launched in Phnom Penh last year, has given us a roadmap for regional economic integration that can reinforce growth and accelerate development across the region, besides enhancing mutual stakes in regional stability and security. India remains fully engaged in and committed to the RCEP process.”
Now, looking at a political opportunity to corner Modi government, the Sonia-led party has taken a U-turn on its earlier stand. Now, six years down the line the Congress wants the incumbent government to scrap the RCEP and invite resentment from the ASEAN and some of the other countries, which share close trade relations with India.
Meanwhile, PM Modi has made it clear that RCEP must be a win-win situation. In an interview to the Bangkok Post, he said, “We too would like a win-win outcome. We believe that for this, addressing our concerns over unsustainable trade deficits is important.”
It is clear that while it was the Manmohan Singh government which forced India to join the RCEP negotiations. At that time, the UPA government did not even bother to go into the intricacies of the major free trade deal. Now that the Modi government has made it a point to effectively negotiate and safeguard India’s interests, the Congress is trying to play spoilsport.