Decision to stay away from RCEP was bold, historic for India: Amit Shah

ANI New Delhi, India Nov 13, 2019, 10.30 PM(IST)

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The Home Minister said that Congress is now desperately trying to take credit for the Prime Minister's decision to back out from the RCEP.

New Delhi [India], Nov 13 (ANI): Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday penned his views on India's decision to stay away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), saying that the move is bold and historic.

"November 4, 2019, shall go down as a historic milestone for India's bold decision to stay away from the RCEP. The decision also cements India's growing stature as a country that is rock solid in its resolve to not only protect its own interests but also to boldly ward off any attempts to being arm-twisted. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, New India reflects a new self-confidence," Amit Shah wrote in an article for 'The Economic Times'.

"India's not joining RCEP was summed up by the PM himself: 'Whenever I try and gauge India's interest in light of her joining RCEP, I do not get an answer in the affirmative; neither Gandhiji's policy of self-reliance nor my wisdom allows me to join RCEP.' What makes this decision significant is that this has yet again demonstrated that the PM can go to any extent to safeguard the interests of farmers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), textile, dairy and manufacturing, medicine, steel and chemical industries," he added.

"The Prime Minister did not compromise on it since the agreement did not seem to accommodate India's concerns on issues like trade losses and dumping. India should not be a party to any such international treaty that is one-sided and against the interests of our farmers and entrepreneurs," the Home Minister further said.

Shah accused Congress of failing to safeguard the country's interests and highlighted the trade losses with China under the UPA government.

"The Congress-led UPA government failed in safeguarding the interests of India. In 2007, it had already begun thinking of engaging in a regional trade agreement (RTA) with China. How this affected India's trade with China is borne out by the fact that during UPA's tenure, India's trade losses with China grew 23 times -- from $1.9 billion in 2005 to $44.8 billion in 2014. This hit indigenous industries hard," he said.

"An example of Congress' history of compromising with India's interests is the 2013 Bali Agreement. While participating in the WTO conference, then commerce minister Anand Sharma had weakened India's stand on its provisions for agriculture subsidy and support prices to farmers. This could have created havoc for farmers, but for the timely intervention of the Prime Minister in 2014, who ensured that then commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected the proposal," Shah wrote in the article.

The Home Minister said that Congress is now desperately trying to take credit for the Prime Minister's decision to back out from the RCEP.

"It is ironic that Congress, which has had a shaky history of dealing with such international treaties, is now desperately trying to take credit for the Prime Minister's decision to stay away from RCEP. In fact, it was Congress' lack of foresight that had led to India agreeing to become part of this bloc. In its original form, other than 10 ASEAN countries, only China, Japan and South Korea were to join RCEP," Shah said.

"However, thanks to Congress' lack of concern for the kind of damages it could pose to SMEs and farmers, the UPA government agreed to become part of RCEP. It was evident from the start that this could open the floodgates for Chinese goods to enter India. India also did not share favourable terms of trade with other countries of the bloc," he added.

The Home Minister also said that 2019 is the "New 2014".

"Since 2014, in RCEP dialogues, the Indian government has aggressively protected India's interests and worked with member countries to agree to favourable conditions, such as opening up the services sector for the first time for India, higher exports from India, etc. Congress was so eager to be a part of RCEP that it had conceded that the import duty as applicable on January 1, 2014, would be taken as the base rate, assuming the agreement would be operational by 2016," Shah said.

"This could have caused havoc, as the 2014 base rate would have led to unhindered imports. Also, the import duties on many products have gone up in the last few years. The PM argued for 2019 as the base rate," he added.

Shah said in the RCEP conference in Bangkok, the Prime Minister, along with commerce minister Piyush Goel, put forward the interests of farmers, SMEs and manufacturing industries and vigorously asked for amendments vital to India's interests.

"The government has begun to evaluate ASEAN and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with South Korea. It is working on getting into trade relations with Japan, the US, EU countries, and other developed nations that shall help in making India a $5 trillion economy. Considering India's growing stature, RCEP members cannot afford to ignore it for long, and will come around to agree to our terms. Meanwhile, India has maintained successful economic relations with ASEAN by the means of FTA," Shah asserted.

The Home Minister outlined that by rejecting RCEP, India has firmly protected its industries from any adverse effects that Chinese interests could have caused. "For us, India remains first and foremost," he further said.