Factoring the RCEP and the TPP: China, India and the Politics of Regional Integration

Dr Jagannath P. Panda was Research Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • January 2014

    The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are not necessarily two contending trade liberalising models, but their import and arrival have posed stiff political challenges for many countries, including China and India, Asia’s two heavyweights. With these two initiatives, the regional trade of Asia is entering an interesting phase of liberalisation and integration. In fact, it is gradually becoming clear that the facets and nuances attached to these two trade liberalisation models will impact regional power politics massively in times to come. While the success of TPP hinges on the global economic authority of the US and how the negotiation process unfolds, the future dynamism of RCEP will depend heavily on how China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) conduct their negotiation process and accommodate the interests of other regional powers, including India. Hitherto, it has been no secret that both RCEP and TPP will greatly affect and influence ASEAN and the role of its free trade agreement (FTA) partner countries, including China and India. In this regional stratagem, China–India relations may witness new dynamics and power politics in East Asia or in the broader Asia-Pacific region. It may also open a new window of opportunity for India’s greater integration with the East Asia region. India needs to analyse carefully the efficacy and implications of both RCEP and TPP to see how far they serve New Delhi’s own regional interests. RCEP may eventually facilitate India’s ‘Look East’ policy more effectively than TPP. The former allows New Delhi to coordinate with ASEAN+6 countries more effectively, to which China has so far been fundamentally opposed.