2, November 2016

1.RCEP: Members worried about giving more market access to Chinese goods

Source: The Hindu

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

RCEP is the proposed mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between 16 Asia-Pacific countries including India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10-member ASEAN bloc.( Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam).

The proposed FTA, which aims to open up trade in goods and services as well as liberalise investment policies, will cover a market of over three billion people in these countries — whose total GDP is more than $17 trillion and account for 40 per cent of world trade.

Worry about tarrifs

Indian government sources said it was not just India, but all the other countries in the RCEP grouping are also worried about agreeing to eliminate tariffs altogether — a move that will mainly help China.

The concerns of these RCEP countries also stem from fears of China dumping its excess capacity in several items including steel, as well as highly subsidised items, thereby harming the local industry in the importing countries and distorting trade in the process.

Highlights:

The pact aims at significant liberalisation of trade in goods, services and investments.

As the domestic industry has time and again raised concerns about increasing imports from the neighbouring countries, the government does not want to take any chance in this pact that may impact domestic companies as the RCEP members will deliberate on the single-tier system of duty relaxation.

Two-tier versus three-tier by India:

India can not give the same treatment to China in terms of duty concessions on goods which it proposes to extend to Asean or other countries like Japan and Korea in the pact.

India could put forward a two-tier proposal on goods that will treat China differently from the remaining RCEP countries. When compared to the treatment for other RCEP nations, this proposal on China will include a larger negative list (goods that will be protected from tariff cuts), and longer time-frame for reducing / eliminating tariffs on the remaining goods.

India is of the view that any concessions for opening up goods trade can be finalised only if there are equivalent gains for it in services market access.

  • India would also emphasised on taking the negotiations of services forward, along with goods.
  • It is very clear that all want India to be more flexible on goods, but not even for a minute, they want to consider the same flexibility in services from their end.
  • On services, RCEP members are not moving at all and now going to link up saying equally progress in services.

2.Kerala declared open defecation free – Drinking Water and Sanitation

Source: PIB

Kerala has become the third Open Defecation Free (ODF) state in the country. The announcement was made on the state’s foundation under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) (Gramin).

Earlier, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim had declared themselves Open Defecation Free.

Kerala becomes first high density populated state in the country to achieve Open Defecation Free status.

Meanwhile, a source said three more states–Gujarat, Haryana and Uttarakhand–will be announcing themselves as ODF soon. Not now

Released by: The Secretary, Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, lauded the State government’s focused efforts on sanitation and congratulated the State on this landmark achievement.

 

3.After shutting liquor shops, Bihar seeks suggestions on prohibition

Source: The Hindu

  • A month after implementing the new stringent Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016, Bihar government has invited the general public to provide feedback and suggestions regarding its provisions.
  • The Supreme Court is to shortly hear a petition regarding prohibition in the State and the government is said to have taken this step to avoid any embarrassment.
  • The State government had implemented the new Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act 2016 from October 2. Many people had termed the legal provisions of the new act as stringent and questioned. Some provisions in the new act were seen as impractical and draconian.
  • Over 18,000 people have been sent to jail so far for violating prohibition laws since April 5 this year, when prohibition came into effect in the state, and several lakh litres of liquor were seized.

Bihar prohibition and excise act, 2016

  • This is a new and more stringent liquor-ban law with provisions such as arrest of all adults in the family if anyone consumes or stores alcohol.
  • It aims to ensure that the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol, including Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), continues in Bihar.
  • Those flouting the ban face up to 10 years in jail, a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and there is also a provision to confiscate the house or premises where liquor is stored or drunk.
  • Though in a rare case, it also prescribes death penalty if people die after consuming hooch.
  • Enforcement of the new law, calculated to impose prohibition in a holistic manner, would repeal the previous excise laws in the state.


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