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TPP’s Loss Does Not Necessarily Mean RCEP’s Gain

With the U.S.’s expected withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, many expect China to begin pushing its own regional trade partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which was first launched in 2012.

The RCEP covers 16 nations, whereas the TPP covered only 12. But many believe it will be easier to get the RCEP deal signed than the TPP because the RCEP isn’t as far-reaching as the TPP. The TPP, for example, included labor standards, environmental protection, and anti-corruption measures, which were a hard pill to swallow for some of the TPP’s signatories.

However, infighting among the RCEP’s participants—particularly India—may do harm to the pact.

One of the most difficult topics on the RCEP agenda is intellectual property. Japan and South Korea are suggesting intellectual property (IP) policies that may increase medical treatment costs and restrict access to affordable generic medications.

India and international health organizations, on the other hand, have been very vocal about being against these IP policies. India is a mass producer of generic medicines that treat a variety of diseases.

Another issue has been India’s protectionism.

“Just like in the World Trade Organization (WTO), India has been very recalcitrant on market access opening,” said Sean King, Senior Vice President at Park Strategies. “India is very loath to open its markets to anyone, even its friends and allies.”

Even the U.S. has had problems with India’s trade-restrictive policies. Washington took India to the WTO dispute settlement body in 2012 regarding a 2007 import ban on U.S. poultry and poultry products, which India had introduced as a means to prevent bird flu outbreak. The WTO ruled in favor of the U.S.

But India isn’t the only country with disputes and problems with the RCEP. Indonesia has struggled to meet other negotiating partners’ standards when it comes to accessibility.

“The problem with RCEP overall is that it’s more countries and it’s less open countries,” King said.

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