Prelims level : International Mains level : GS2S - Important International Institutions, Agencies and Fora- Their Structure, Mandate
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  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional economic agreement being negotiated since 2012 between the 10 ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian  Nations)  governments  and  their  six  FTA  partners:  Australia,  China,  India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
  • The agreement’s contents, the proposed RCEP would cover almost every aspect of economy such as goods, services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property rights (IPR), rules of origin, competition and dispute settlement.
  • The negotiations have missed several deadlines repeatedly, even though they have gained momentum since 2016.

Issues of concern for India:

  • Japan and South Korea are channelling demands by big pharma for longer patent terms and for monopoly rights over clinical trial data. These provisions could undermine access to price-lowering generic medicines, and thus, life-saving treatment for millions of people in the developing world.
  • The  RCEP  would  threaten  livelihoods  in  sectors  like  dairy,  meat  and  other  agricultural products by allowing duty free imports of subsidised  products from Japan, New Zealand and Australia. India, with 100 million small scale dairy producers, and Vietnam are among the countries that will be most affected.
  • One of the provisions proposed in RCEP will allow governments to treat foreign investors as they treat locals. This means that large corporations will be able to grab land, displacing local subsistence farmers.
  • India’s trade deficit [annual] with RCEP nations is about $100 billion, and half of this is with China alone even without an FTA with China. Post India’s FTA with ASEAN, Japan and Korea [who are all RCEP members], our trade deficit with them have increased, and the government needs to take this into account during RCEP negotiations.
  • Visa Norms– India’s push for easier norms on movement of professionals across borders for  short-term  work  in  16  Asia-Pacific  nations,  including  itself,  under  a  proposed  mega Free  Trade  Agreement  (FTA)  —  is  learnt  to  have  found  favour  with  some  ASEAN-bloc members. To date, no official text has been made public, even though the agreement would affect several billion people. This continues to fuel concerns.
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