India determined to get balanced, equitable RCEP: Official

Indo Asian News Service

Kolkata, Nov 29 (IANS) India is determined to ensure that the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is currently being negotiated, would be "balanced, equitable, and beneficial" to all participating countries, an official said here on Thursday.

The RCEP is a proposed free-trade agreement between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and six Asia-Pacific states with which the regional bloc has existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) -- namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

"These countries are currently negotiating this. There were multiple rounds of negotiations at the official and Commerce Ministers' level. Since last year, there have been two leadership meetings of RCEP. I can assure you that the progress has been very good. We are, of course, determined to ensure that we get a RCEP which is balanced, equitable and beneficial to all the participating countries," Ministry of External Affairs' Joint Secretary (Asean- ML) Anurag Bhushan said here.

At the Singapore summit, the leaders laid down that 2019 will be the year when they would like to conclude the RCEP and 11 chapters have already been finalised, he said at the "Kolkata Dialogue 2018" organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking on the Indo-Asean partnerships and relations, Bhushan said the country had identified several priority areas and connectivity remained the overarching issue in its relationship with the regional bloc.

"We have invested in the last few years in getting the trilateral highway between India's north-eastern part through Myanmar to Thailand. Though the topography is challenging and conditions were unprecedented, the progress has been good. We are looking at completion of the project in the next couple of years or so," he said, adding that the Motor Vehicle Agreement is also looked upon positively.

India is also looking to enhance air and maritime connectivity with Asean countries, he said.

India has also been focusing on digital connectivity with Asean nations and has identified four countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam -- to set up digital villages as pilot projects, he added.

--IANS

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