High time for APEC to include India as member: Kevin Rudd

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) India with its $2 trillion economy, its large workforce coupled with the government’s ‘Act East’ policy and ‘Make in India’ initiative deserves to be at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) table, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said on Wednesday.

He also said that the forum of 21 Asia-Pacific economies was missing out much in not including India as a member.

“India is such a large economy; APEC, in my judgement, misses out much in not having India at the table; and it is due to no fault of india,” said Rudd, who heads a high-level international task force pushing for India’s inclusion in APEC.

Rudd, head of Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), apologised for APEC not including India.

“Historically, I apologise on behalf of all my predecessors; and 2015 is the time to turn it around,” he said, referring to the APEC summit due in November-end in Manila, Philippines.

“India is a highly significant global economy,” he said, adding that non-inclusion of India is “not just a puzzling omission but a huge omission in terms of economies represented at the table”.

He referred to the Indian government’s ‘Act East’ policy and ‘Make in India’ initiative and said, “I can’t think of a better institutional arrangement than APEC to complement the objectives of the government of India.”

Rudd said the task force wants to “see the question of India’s membership opened in the Manila summit, so that we see it concluded in 2015-16 to secure India’s membership”.

India applied for APEC membership in 1991, but a moratorium on the forum membership is in force since 1997.

The former Australian prime minister said the task force, which includes Ajay Banga, president and CEO of Mastercard Worldwide and chairman of the US-India Business Council, would work towards pushing for India’s inclusion by way of informal diplomacy and through its reports and interactions.

Former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran said $49 billion has been invested by Indian companies in APEC countries – a measure of the large-scale involvement of India in the region.

“And APEC membership would be a recognition of the fact that India is already a significant APEC economy. It is rather surprising that India is not a part of the forum,” said Saran.

He said membership of APEC was “aspirational” and meant a “voluntary adoption” of the international benchmarks for economic exchanges, which would help India integrate with the global market.

Sung-Hwan Kim, former foreign minister of South Korea, said India’s labour force is set to grow by 80 million between 2011-20.

“APEC countries will be benefittedA (by India joining as member) and India can create jobs outside”, he said. He said it would also benefit India-South Korea ties.

Sumit Mazumder, president of Confederation of Indian Industry, said India’s $2 trillion GDP accounts for 12 percent of the global GDP. India is also the fastest growing large economy, growing at 7.4 percent in 2014-15, outpacing China.

The APEC countries of China, US, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia are among India’s top 20 trade partners.

He said APEC membership would also have “notable impact” on the India-US trade, which at $100 billion is “far below the potential”.

A joint statement issued during US President Barack Obama’s India visit in January had said that the US “welcomes India’s interest in joining the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, as the Indian economy is a dynamic part of the Asian economy”.

During the May visit of Prime Minister Nareandra Modi to China, the joint statement said that China welcomed “India’s desire to strengthen its link with APEC”.

To a question, Rudd said that they have “not detected any opposition to India’s membership of APEC in the region, including from China”.

In July, Rudd and Banga, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, had made a strong case for India to be made member of the grouping.

The 21 APEC member-economies are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

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