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Uthamaraj Pissonia Asked: Why APEC is not letting India join as its member?

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  • Abhijit Singh replies: The ostensible reason for India's non-inclusion in the APEC is its extra-regional status. APEC is essentially a group of 'Pacific' countries that came together in 1989 to form an economic community. Its guiding motive was to resist protectionist policies by individual member states, and the promotion of trade liberalisation and economic cooperation within the affiliated Asia-Pacific economies. By that description, India did not seem to fit in.

    In the past few years, however, the issue of India’s membership to the APEC has come under repeated discussion within the forum. The main impediment, apparently, has been the opposition of some participants who have held India’s record on economic reforms and WTO engagement to be unsatisfactory and unworthy of meriting inclusion as a member in the grouping.

    Since 2012, when APEC’s leaders decided not to extend the moratorium on new membership (in force since 1997), there has been a renewed push to grant membership status to India. A majority of members now believe that India must be brought into the fold for it has shown progress in reforming and liberalising its economy. Granting India membership status may also act as a catalyst for trade reform among emerging economies. Moreover, India’s maritime strength and strong strategic relations with the region’s major powers, member states point out, could be used to bring strategic balance within the grouping. But the same logic is also causing some members to oppose India's inclusion.

    India, which presently has 'observer' status, has been very keen to join the economic grouping as a full member. An Indian delegation attended the APEC Summit in Bali in October 2013, and discussions were also held earlier this year between India and Indonesia - the current chair of the APEC - on the membership question. Importantly, inclusion in the APEC might open the door for India’s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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