Dear Editor,India’s decision to stay out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will affect the country’s long-term trade prospects in a region that is doing better than major Western economies. Our acumen and decision-making abilities in terms of participation in free trade agreements (FTAs) have remained wanting, both in consistency and content. In the World Trade Organisation (WTO) we looked at its potential for collective bargaining where developing economies can leverage flexibility in rate, quantum and scope of tariff reduction. But our failure to toe the line on the organisation’s agricultural subsidy issues, crucial for domestic food security, threatened our isolation. We swung to bilateral and regional pacts, which entailed trade commitments that would necessarily overlap or work at cross-purposes. We have since faced a difficult balancing act -between trying to regain lost ground at the WTO and protecting interests via bilaterals and hovering between securing trade pacts and checking trade imbalances; sharper rise in imports than exports; between protecting domestic industries even as we seek concessions for our services sector. Other Asian economies, though in near similar positions, were quick on the uptake and navigated and negotiated their way to better results for their economies. Maybe, India can take a page out of their book and learn from past mistakes to take better decisions so that the economy of the country can recover at the earliest. R Narayanan, Navi Mumbai.
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