NEW DELHI: Trade ministers from 14 countries are set to announce a deal on two more pillars – clean energy & infrastructure and tax & anti-corruption – while signing of an agreement on resilient chain under the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) later this week as they seek to forge an alliance to strengthen relations and reduce dependence on China in the post-Covid period.
The decision will leave only the trade pillar open, an area where India has so far stayed away from the talks, while keeping its options open for the future. A decision on the trade pillar, which is being closely watched in the US, will take some time as just around half of it has been negotiated.
“There is no decision yet, we will decide in future if it makes sense for us to join the talks as an active member,” a senior Indian official told TOI. Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal will be in the US for the meeting of ministers, where an announcement on further progress under IPEF is expected. Apart from India, the other members of the US-led initiative, which accounts for 40% of global GDP and 28% of international trade in goods and services, includes Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
From India’s point of view, trade pillar is seen to be the trickiest, given that countries would have to commit to ease their rules in several areas, including labour, environment, agriculture and inclusivity, which have so far been “no-go areas”.
The other aspects, such as, clean energy and tax are seen to be less challenging. In clean energy, for instance, India is seen to be ahead of the curve, while in case of tax and corruption, the negotiations have been in line with the framework in forums such as OECD and the Financial Action Task Force.
Officials said that in case of the trade pillar, while Indian negotiators are part of the negotiating room, they are not taking any commitments for the moment and will wait to see how the talks progress in the coming months, before taking a final call on joining or staying out.
In the past, India has stayed away from US-led trade groupings, arguing that it is not in a position to undertake commitments. But given the stronger bilateral relations and the emergence of IPEF as a platform, where a coalition that seeks to balance the economic influence of non-market economies, such as China, India has been engaged in the talks.
Source: The Times of India