S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs. Photo: PTI
Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said in the Rajya Sabha that if India's concerns are addressed by the RCEP grouping, the government may take a call on what needs to done, otherwise the present stand will continue.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega free-trade agreement (FTA) which was negotiated by 16 countries, including India and China.
On November 4 in Bangkok, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the call for not joining the RCEP agreement as its concerns were not addressed in the pact.
The external affairs minister said if the country's concerns are not addressed, the current call will continue.
"On RCEP, what will happen in the future is speculative. It depends on whether our concerns are addressed or not. So, if your concerns are addressed then obviously somebody will take whatever call needs to be taken. If they are not, then obviously the current call will continue," he said in the Rajya Sabha.
Jaishankar said negotiations for the agreement, which started in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in 2012, were not initiated by this government.
"These negotiations have carried out for many years. What happens in a negotiation? You negotiate till a point comes when you have to take the decision. So, when we reached Bangkok, we had issues and concerns..." he said.
At the Bangkok summit, the country had to assess whether its interests are adequately met in the set of outcomes or not.
"We came to the conclusion (that) our concerns and the interests were not fully cleared," he said.
"I believe it is a matter of pride, it is a positive thing that the prime minister actually looked at it and said it is not in the best interest of the nation and not the right time to go ahead with it," he added.
He said the House should be welcoming to the prime minister who stood for the interest of the country and is willing to take tough decisions and not let pressure of international diplomacy hustle him into taking a decision which is not good for the country.
"Members should be rest assured that this government and this prime minister will do what is right for the country on trade matters and on all other matters," he added.
Talking about free-trade agreements of India, he said there is no in-principle opposition to do these pacts.
He said every agreement must be judged on the basis of what it offers to India and whether India is gaining or not.
"If India loses, we should not be hustled into it. If india gains, naturally (it is) in our interest to do it," he said.
He added that in the past, India has signed a lot of FTAs and "today we are studying what has been the impact of these agreements on our economy and its a very mixed pitch. I have urged the partner countries to do review as well".
The minister added that India is reviewing its agreement with ASEAN and it has also urged Japan to do the same.
"So if an FTA offers us benefits, we are open minded about it," he said.
The minister also said that India is open to resume the stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement with European Union.
"There is a bilateral BTIA (Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement) with EU. We are open to resume the FTA," he added.
Further he said that there is a great deal of synchronisation between India's economic, financial and foreign policies.
"This is a very very cohesive government . All of us work together so there are no mixed messages, discontinuity among us," he said.
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