Stalled Asia Trade Pact at ‘Point of No Return,’ Indonesia Says



Philip Heijmans and Rieka Rahadiana | Bloomberg

Global trade tensions could derail a landmark regional agreement encompassing 16 countries including India, China and Australia if a deal is not struck by November, said Indonesian Minister of Trade Enggartiasto Lukita.

Negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, have reached the “point of no return” as increasingly hostile trade tensions could dampen a deal seven years in the making, Lukita said in a statement on Monday evening.

“A settlement this year is very urgent, if not, the RCEP negotiations will lose important momentum that can drive changes and progress in the world economy,” he said.

Trade ministers from each of the participating countries resolved to reach a deal by November even as they have yet to hash out a solution to unspecified “fundamental issues.”

Individual ministers “found it difficult to find agreements among the sixteen RCEP Participating Countries. One of them finds solutions that work for one or two countries with too many differences with the outlying majority,” Lukita said.

Indian Criticism

Encompassing nearly half of the world’s population, RCEP includes all 10 of Southeast Asia’s Asean countries, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India and China.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar criticized China for what he described as one-sided trade policies, casting doubt over its presence in a deal.

“The big concerns of India are of course, one, its relationship with China because we have an enormous trade deficit with China,” Jaishankar said during a panel discussion in Singapore on Monday.

Singaporean Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat, urged India to remain in negotiations that require “some give and take.”

“Singapore has taken a consistent position since the start of the RCEP negotiations that it is important for RCEP to include India, given the size and potential of India’s economy,” he said on Tuesday. “We want India to be part of RCEP.”

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