India has asked RCEP members, including ASEAN nations, China and Korea, to focus on value addition in services, besides working towards to improving investment climate to spur trade and boost growth in the region.
"The negotiations must facilitate each economy entering these value chains. Moreover, these value chains cannot be confined to merely goods but has to encompass other crucial areas of services, investment, intellectual property etc," Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
She inaugurated the sixth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at Greater Noida on Monday.
The 16-member RCEP comprises 10 Asean members and its six Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners namely India, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The 16 economies account for over a quarter of the world economy. RCEP negotiations were launched in Phnom Penh in November 2012.
India has so far entered into FTAs with Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Asean and South Asia.
The minister said the RCEP is indeed "an interesting amalgam of nations", some of whom are manufacturing powerhouses while others are trading entities. Some of the countries have also shown their prowess in the services sector.
"Therefore, the region while being economically diverse has complementaries which need to be leveraged...The equitous distribution of benefits in the final outcome would be the true test of these negotiations," Sitharaman added.
She said entire outlook on the negotiations under FTAs is circumscribed by the impetus to manufacturing led export growth.
With such a large domestic market, she said, "Our manufacturing still languishes in terms of its contribution to the GDP and this needs correction".
"It is in this context that our aim has been to attract investments in key sectors to stimulate manufacturing. Since RCEP is comprehensive in nature, it could be an effective tool for furthering this avowed objective," she added.