The Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) released a report this week calling for India’s membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. At the report’s release event at the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C., ASPI President Kevin Rudd remarked that “Indian membership in APEC … is good for India, good for APEC, good for the region, and good for the world.”
The report India’s Future in Asia: The APEC Opportunity makes the case for Indian membership by outlining the significant benefits of including the country, the world’s fastest growing major economy and the third largest in Asia. My co-author Harsha V. Singh and I also suggest steps that India and APEC could consider to ease the country’s path toward membership.
India’s economy is only partly integrated into the global economy, particularly regional trade arrangements in a dynamic Asia-Pacific. The emergence of regional trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens to further distance India from the global supply chains critical to Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” initiative. India’s entry into the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), which accounts for nearly 60 percent of global GDP, would provide a pathway for greater integration into the region’s economy. It would also ensure that trade remains a unifying force in the region, where competing trade regimes are straining ties.
With this in mind, ASPI had convened a high-level, international task force to develop a strategy for India’s membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The project has developed the case for India’s membership in APEC, identifying the benefits and obstacles to it, and is seeking to generate support for India’s membership in India and among APEC members.
Some of the members of the Task Force included are, Kevin Rudd (chair), who is the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. He served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister. As Chair of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism, Mr. Rudd is leading a review of the UN system. Ajay Banga (co-chair) is President and Chief Executive Officer of MasterCard and a member of its board of directors. He serves as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He chairs the U.S.-India Business Council and serves on the U.S.-India CEO Forum. Amb. Shyam Saran (co-chair) was Foreign Secretary of India from 2004 to 2006 and currently serves as Chairman for the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a think tank specializing in studies on economic and trade issues.
Founded in 1989, APEC is a 21-member organization dedicated to regional economic integration and helping its members improve their trade and investment ties. India has wanted to become a member since the mid-1990s, but has thus far not been included.
At the report’s launch, India’s Ambassador to the United States Arun Kumar Singh called on APEC to welcome India, arguing that “for APEC to fully realize its potential in the Asia-Pacific and the world at large, it needs to reflect 21st century realities. This would entail inclusion of economies such as India, given their economic size and potential.”
“This is a particularly opportune moment to push forward for India’s membership in APEC,” Rudd emphasized. “The United States, China, Japan, and Russia — four key APEC economies — have welcomed, formally, India’s interest in becoming a member of APEC. Prime Minister Modi has developed constructive relationships with many of these countries, and this can prove useful in building support for Indian membership.”
There is today a striking alignment between APEC’s interests and India’s economic agenda. It’s time for India and APEC to seize the opportunity. India has expressed interest in APEC membership since the mid-1990s but has not been included as a member. Despite the growth in India’s trade and investment relationships with the region over the past 15 years, current members continue to have concerns about including India as a member.