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Trade pact must address India’s concerns: PM Modi

“India remains committed to a comprehensive and balanced outcome from the ongoing RCEP negotiations. Their successful conclusion is in the interest of everyone involved. Hence, India seeks balance across goods, services and investments, and also within each pillar,” Modi said

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NEW DELHI: As the fate of the 16-nation RCEP agreement hangs in balance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said India will consider whether its concerns and interests in trade in goods, services and investments are being “fully accommodated” in the proposed pact before agreeing to it. The PM said India had put forward reasonable proposals and it was important to address its concerns for a comprehensive and balanced agreement. Modi, who left for Bangkok early Saturday to participate in Asean, East Asia and RCEP summits, made the remark in his departure statement here. Later, in an interview to a Bangkok daily, Modi said addressing India’s concerns over unsustainable trade deficits is important to ensure a balanced agreement. “It needs to be recognised that opening the vast Indian market must be matched by openings in some areas where our businesses can also benefit,” he added. While other countries have accused India of dragging its feet on the agreement, which was expected to be signed in Bangkok, Modi said India had put forward “reasonable proposals” in a clear manner and is engaged in the negotiations with sincerity. “We would like to see commensurate levels of ambition on services from many of our partners, even as we are ready to address their sensitivities. Overall, we are clear that a mutually beneficial RCEP, in which all sides gain reasonably, is in the interest of India and of all partners in the negotiation,” he said. Agency reports from Bangkok quoted diplomats from RCEP countries as saying there was a “very high” possibility of inking the deal at the bloc’s summit on Monday if India agreed to be a part of it. India though believes that there are critical issues which need to be resolved. “India remains committed to a comprehensive and balanced outcome from the ongoing RCEP negotiations. Their successful conclusion is in the interest of everyone involved. Hence, India seeks balance across goods, services and investments, and also within each pillar,” Modi said in his interview, adding that he was hoping for a win-win outcome from the talks. Modi also complimented Asean for its outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which, he said, has significant convergence with India’s Indo-Pacific vision. “Maritime security, connectivity, economic growth and sustainable development are priority areas both in our and Asean’s approaches to build a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. We will be glad to work with our partners in Asean to progress partnership in achieving these objectives,” he said. Modi also said India attaches great importance to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).“It constitutes a unique link between South Asia and Southeast Asia with five members from South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and two from Southeast Asia (Myanmar and Thailand),” he added.

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