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Govt sees convergence of interest and aspirations between India and APEC member economies
Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, released the report 'APEC and India: An Appraisal' by Ambassador V. S. Seshadri, Vice Chairman, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) at a launch function organized jointly by FICCI, RIS and ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi.

Ambassador Wadhwasaid, "As India undertakes further economic reforms and sets the next generation of the liberalization process in motion, there is a golden opportunity for India and economic forums such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)to benefit from deeper engagement. There is today a significant and identifiable convergence of interest and aspirations between India and APEC member economies. India's 'Act East Policy' envisions increased cooperation in trade, investment, infrastructure development, connectivity, capacity building and strengthening people-to-people contacts in the region, goals which are shared by APEC too."

According to a FICCI release, he stated that there are specific sectors in which India has already launched several liberalization initiatives, for example, in the services sector, particularly in insurance, air and rail transport, and construction services. Another potential area of cooperation between India and APEC is government procurement and competition, where India's progress is quite comparable to those of APEC developing countries. India has also undertaken reforms in customs procedures whereby procedures have been simplified and the transparency standards are more or less comparable to several APEC economies.

Ambassador Wadhwa said other benefits of a formal engagement between India and APEC would include reduction in transaction costs of doing business as well as greater harmonization and mutual recognition of standards, professional qualifications and other soft infrastructure. Indian entrepreneurs would undoubtedly benefit from the APEC travel card which permits virtually visa free travel among member economies. India could, in turn, inject dynamism and bolster economic integration of the region. 

In his presentation on the report Ambassador V. S. Seshadri, said that it would be desirable for India to join APEC as it would provide an impetus for domestic trade and investment facilitation initiatives; assist in familiarization with newer issues and best practices developing in a host of areas; offer networking opportunities at official, expert, business and think tank levels; and strategically enable India to have wider options on emerging global trade governance.

Responding to the issue of whether India will be accepted into APEC, he said that India was seen as a growth opportunity more than ever before at a time when China was showing signs of a slowdown. The prospects for acceptance appear better as India not being part of the Pacific Rim seems no longer an issue.

He added that increasing recognition of India's contribution to maritime security, rescue and rehabilitation at the time of disasters and accidents and its efforts to improve connectivity with South East Asia would also act in India's favor.

Ambassador Seshadri also suggested a possible strategy in case the Indian Government decides to pursue membership with APEC. India needs to clearly articulate its interest, purpose and policy positions and diplomatically approach leading APEC members including Australia and Japan and ASEAN countries apart from the US and China. India should also take up this matter with the Chair countries Philippines (2015), Peru (2016) and Vietnam (2017) and seek to participate in some APEC working and expert groups in the interim.

Sidharth Birla, Immediate Past President, FICCI, said thatIndia is positioned well to take a place at the high table in APEC, thanks to the vigorous policy of external engagement by the Indian government. India's engagement with China, an influential member of APEC, has strengthened. The US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region unveiled during the recent visit of President Obama to India, has mentioned that the US welcomes India's interest in joining APEC. India's close and rapidly growing political, economic and strategic ties with many of the other APEC economies like Australia and Japan are all encouraging signs of an endorsement of India's efforts to join APEC.

Ambassador Shyam Saran, Chairman, RIS, said that once the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreements are established they would impact the global trading mechanism. India would find it difficult to conform to the TPP and TTIP standards as they would be different and much more arduous. Hence, India would need to effectively respond to TPP and TTIP, if it is not a part of these free trade mega agreements.

In such a scenario, he said that if India secures a membership of APEC, then it would be able to take forward its economic growth agenda and remain an active player in the global market. Working through voluntary cooperation, APEC plans and implements its programmes through networking, capacity building, sharing of and developing best practices and conducting peer reviews to encourage conformity and compliance, which suits India well at this hour.

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