Asean's leaders have issued a stark warning about rising protectionism at their latest summit, promising "to exert all efforts to resolve outstanding issues" delaying the critical Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement.
It is no secret that India is the biggest stumbling block, leading some to worry that India may be left out of the trade pact entirely. This would be a mistake. RCEPnegotiators meeting in Singapore this week would be wise to think of new concessions, not just to keep India at the table but to persuade it to sign the deal itself.
First launched in 2013, the RCEP was originally aimed at tidying up pre-existing trade deals between the 10-member Asean and six other nations - Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. As a group, they account for 3.4 billion people and more than a third of global gross domestic product.
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James Crabtree is Associate Professor in Practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Blake Berger is Research Associate at the Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.