China and Russia suffered a setback to their global ambitions when India recently declined to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trading bloc that includes most Asian countries. This setback stemmed from India’s concern over the negative impact that the bloc would have on its domestic industries. India is concerned that its domestic sectors would be overwhelmed by goods from China and other, more competitive members of the bloc.
India’s decision is an especially hard blow for China as RCEP was intended to help reduce its dependence on the United States through increased trade within Asia. The other members of the bloc, which includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, face a similar risk of being overwhelmed by Chinese-made products.
The setback also affects Russia, which has been pushing for a greater presence in Asia, particularly through an increased focus on the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a regional economic bloc that it dominates. The EAEU could have provided a useful outlet for Russia’s economic interests, but its connection with the RCEP was rendered moot by India’s refusal to join.
This setback highlights the challenge that these countries face in increasing their presence in the region. China and Russia have both asserted their economic might in the region in recent years and have sought to expand their influence further. However, the reluctance of major players like India to join their trading blocs highlights the difficulty they face in achieving their goals.