Stiff negotiations on goods, services expected at Kobe meet
India will be on a stronger wicket to oppose the stringent IPR framework being pushed by some members at the next negotiating round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Kobe, Japan, following the collapse of the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) it was modelled on.
“There will be a sense of urgency among RCEP members in Kobe next week to complete the round soon with the failure of the TPP, but the pressure will be relatively less on India to give its consent to the draft IPR agreement, for the same reason,” an official told BusinessLine.
The RCEP is being negotiated by the 10-member ASEAN bloc and its six free trade partners — India, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The February 27- March 3 Kobe meet will have separate negotiating sessions for goods, services, investments, as well as talks on other areas such as rules of origin and IP.
With seven of the 16 countries also members of the TPP, some members such as Japan were trying to make the RCEP deal as ambitious as the TPP, especially in areas such as IPR (intellectual property rights). The TPP, however, has collapsed with the Donald Trump regime in the US pulling out of it. “New Delhi has already registered its unhappiness with the draft IPR agreement modelled on the TPP, as it feels that provisions such as patent term extension and data exclusivity could affect the supply of cheap generics in the country. Such provisions also go beyond the WTO’s TRIPS pact,” the official added.
Civil society organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have also petitioned Japan and South Korea to withdraw their “harmful proposals’’, which will restrict people’s access to affordable generic medicines.
“The negotiators must protect public health safeguards that enable developing countries like India to keep supplying the life-saving affordable medicines needed to treat millions of people worldwide,” said Leena Menghaney, Head-South Asia, MSF Access Campaign.
The RCEP, if implemented, could create the world’s largest trade bloc, with $22.5 trillion in GDP (30 per cent of world GDP) and a population of over 3.5 billion.
There is pressure on India to improve its market access in goods to bring it at par with the offer of tariff elimination on over 80 per cent of items extended to ASEAN. New Delhi has offered the least access to China, Australia and New Zealand (42.5 per cent).
India has insisted that it will not give higher market access in goods till it receives meaningful offers in services in terms of more access for its professionals and workers.