NEW DELHI: India is batting for a special mechanism in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, being negotiated among 16 Asia-Pacific countries, which will help it protect itself from sudden surges in imports from China.

New Delhi wants ‘transitional safeguards measures auto-trigger and snapback’ to counter a sudden surge in imports for a period of six months when imports from an RCEP partner exceed a particular threshold. This threshold would be mutually decided by the members and would be applied only on mutually identified select lines.

The snapback provision would allow India to revert to the original higher tariffs to counter a sudden surge in imports.

“We have proposed these mechanisms to check any sudden surge in imports. Snapback is standard trade safeguard. We will use it along with the auto trigger,” said an official aware of the details.

The safeguard mechanisms would be discussed at a technical meeting of the RCEP members in New Delhi on September 14-15.

India’s trade deficit with the 16-member trade grouping is $105.2 billion, of which $53.6 billion is with China alone.

In India, there is apprehension among government departments and industry that a trade deal on the current terms will lead to China dumping goods in India. The ministries of steel, agriculture and chemicals, and executives of industries such as dairy, steel, copper, textiles, aluminium, engineering, pharmaceuticals, leather and food have expressed their reservations on it.

While many FTAs globally, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, have some provisions for tariffs to revert to most favoured nation (MFN) levels, experts said this is the first time that the clauses are being explored for RCEP.

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“These safeguards have been used in many FTAs and even mentioned in India’s trade pact talks with the European Union. These are beneficial but can be used in certain situations such as countries not getting the promised market access,” said a Delhi-based expert on trade issues.

India’s proposal comes in the wake of discussions for India to immediately eliminate duty cuts on close to one-third of the traded goods once RCEP agreement enters into force.



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