Picking the Right Alternative: Should India Participate in TPP Instead of RCEP?
Deeper trade integration in East and Southeast Asia has contributed significantly in development of international production networks (IPN) in several key manufacturing products in the region. To secure a much wider Asia-Pacific trade integration, negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), involving six bilateral RTA partners of ASEAN, namely—Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea has been launched from 2013, with ASEAN at the core. The other mega-FTA, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) also involves a number of RCEP countries. The current analysis intends to compare the possible benefits for India through its association with RCEP and possible joining of TPP, with the help of select trade indices. The data revels that while from a pure trade balance perspective TPP offers India a better prospect, gains are expected in several RCEP countries in terms of trade complementarity, trade intensity and production integration dynamics. Because of geographical proximity, a number of RCEP countries have been able to deepen their presence in the Indian market and integrate with the value chains. It is expected that appropriate trade facilitation reforms, followed by conclusion of RCEP negotiations, would deepen intra-bloc trade flows further. The results reveal that RCEP holds an edge over TPP in India’s preference ordering on the basis of merchandise trade patterns. It is therefore concluded that India needs to focus on RCEP negotiations, at least in short run, before it can pitch for a TPP membership later, in line with its economic interests.