RCEP members continue to encourage India to return to the agreement. During the November 2020 sessions, the other 15 parties agreed on specific accelerated accession provisions3, under which (i) India may re-join the RCEP from the date of entry into force, in accordance with Article 20.9 (accession). (ii) India may, at any time after the signing of the agreement, submit a written application for membership of the RCEP; and (iii) India may participate as an observer in RCEP meetings and in the economic activities of the RCEP parties. Despite these accommodating efforts, many say India is unlikely to join the RCEP in the near future. Trade in goods: According to Singapore`s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), access to the goods market implies the removal of tariffs on at least 92% of goods traded between RCEP parties over a 20-year period. The agreement excludes the United States, which withdrew from an Asia-Pacific trade pact in 2017. However, some analysts believe that China, Japan and South Korea should benefit from this agreement, which will be more than other member states. In the longer term, Li called the agreement a „victory for multilateralism and free trade.“ Although the RCEP was originally an ASEAN-led initiative, many now see it as an alternative to the China-backed CPTPP, which excludes China but encompasses several Asia-Pacific countries4. The United States is particularly absent from the two agreements, which, over time, are likely to strengthen intra-Asian integration around China (in the case of the RCEP) and Japan (in the case of the CPTPP). Although it was never involved in the RCEP negotiations, the United States withdrew in January 2017 from the former CPTPP iteration, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
As the U.S. presidency approaches, it remains unclear how quickly President-elect Joe Biden will be able to develop a trade approach for Asia to rebalance U.S. economic and strategic interests, including whether the United States should attempt to renegotiate or directly associate with the terms of the CPTPP.