Confusing signals on inclusion of India in RCEP . . .
A top Japanese negotiator said today that Japan will not sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact without India. RCEP is a prospective China-backed trade pact that includes 15 countries – China, ASEAN nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand – and could become the world’s largest trade deal. Japan’s Deputy Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Hideki Makihara said, however, that Japan is not considering leaving the RCEP, but that it just wants to include India in the negotiations.
Japan’s China dilemma . . .
The contradictory statements made by Japanese officials attest to the conundrum that Japan is facing in navigating its relations with China. Japan views China as a potential security threat, and is looking for allies as a counterweight to its neighbour’s growing military strength and assertiveness in Asia, with India viewed by Tokyo as a key ally in ‘containing’ China. In early November 2019, India decided to opt out of the China-backed RCEP because of concerns that an increase in imports under this agreement will put India’s domestic industry and agriculture at risk. This has left Japan policy-makers apprehensive, as they feel that India’s presence in the pact would serve to block potential Chinese efforts to leverage the new trade bloc to enhance its own clout in the Asia Pacific.
Japan wants India to reconsider . . .
Considering the degree of Japanese anxiety over China, and its view of India as a crucial ally, we are likely to observe continued efforts on the part of Japan to persuade India to rescind its decision to exit RCEP. Tomorrow, Japan’s ministers of defence and foreign affairs are in New Delhi for the inaugural meeting of the India-Japan Foreign and Defense Ministerial Dialogue, and next month Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit India. Japanese leaders are likely to raise the issues of RCEP with their Indian counterparts in these coming summits.
- Bloomberg: Japan Won’t Sign China-Backed Trade Deal If India Doesn’t Join
- Business Standard: Japan's defence, foreign ministers to visit India tomorrow for 2+2 dialogue
- The Japan Times: Get India back into the RCEP negotiations