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International relations

China wants Asia free trade pact without India

Beijing's proposal seen as counter move to Washington's Indo-Pacific push

From left to right: Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a meeting on the RCEP in Singapore in November.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- China is proposing a new Asian free trade agreement that excludes India, throwing a wrench into plans for the 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is eager to wrap up RCEP talks to create a trade bloc that rivals the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. But China is deeply frustrated with India, which is at odds with the rest of the RCEP participants over tariff reductions. Beijing's irritation with the "free and open Indo-Pacific" initiative pushed by Japan and the U.S. also appears to be behind its move.

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