Friday, June 14, 2024
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Talks in Cambodia

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The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations are on in Cambodia. It is pitted against the US-inspired Trans-Pacific Partnership which is trying to bring ASEAN closer to the West. The winner will achieve a huge gain. In the past, South Asia had not provided a level playing field to Indian companies. China on the other hand is engaged in a highly competitive zone, ringed by Japan and South Korea. India has so far looked for competitive trade only in areas for beyond its borders. As a result, its manufacturing sector has gained less than its services sector. There is need for strengthening ties with the ASEAN countries. An OECD report released recently shows the region is expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.4% in the next 5 years, which will put it above other geographical regions. Some of the countries in the region are in the middle income group. Rapid growth will make them front-ranking globally. India has teamed up with China but that bristles with issues like exploitation of the South China Sea. The two countries clashed there on drilling for oil.

What is imperative is to wipe out the geographical barrier between India and ASEAN. Railways from Delhi to Myanmar and up to Thailand are most essential. Plans for extending the Trilateral Highway to Vietnam have to be finalized. Otherwise, India’s trade talks with the region will be unproductive. Malaysia and Thailand have gone great guns in creating manufacturing bases for multi-national companies. Indian manufacturers look askance at trade deals in the area. However, ASEAN may play a big role in building a bridge between India and the region overcoming such distrust.

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