Beijing, Nov 17: It is high time India took a decision on joining the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) after having declined to attend the bloc's annual summit in Beijing earlier this month despite being invited by host China, a leading Chinese daily has said.
"India's refusal to attend the APEC meeting confuses observers on two further fronts. First, APEC is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for the Modi government to garner support among APEC members and display Modi's resolve in building up a new image of India for stronger economic integration into the world trade system," said an opinion piece headlined "It's crunch time for India: Integration into or isolation from APEC?" in the Global Times English daily.
APEC is a forum comprising 21 Pacific rim member economies.
According to the article, India would not be bound by any obligations but only stood to gain by joining this economic bloc.
"India is not an APEC member and thus attending the meeting does not bind it to any formal obligations, especially so when considering that APEC is not a binding forum." the writer, Xie Chao, a PhD candidate at Tsinghua University's department of international studies, stated.
"Compared with APEC, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) puts more binding institutions on its members and India has used its WTO membership to drive its initiatives and protect its core interests," it added, pointing as an example India's recent blocking of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement to preserve its domestic farm subsidy system.
According to the article, India is a strong candidate for entry into APEC but "its recent moves regarding WTO negotiations and declining this APEC meeting invitation present us with an India in contradiction".
"An India with stronger confidence and closer integration into the regional economy will benefit all sides," it stated.
"China has realised this and as some observers have pointed out, the invitation (by Chinese President Xi Jinping) itself is an implicit Chinese endorsement of membership," the writer observed.
"So now comes India's choice: to integrate with or isolate itself from APEC?"
The greatest benefit from APEC, the article stated, was in it "being a mature regional economic forum bringing the North and South countries together to promote multinational trade and investment facilitation agendas".
"Hence, India's economic reform and development could certainly benefit from APEC institutions for broader contact with other Asia-Pacific countries. Its relatively isolated economy can find better ways to integrate into world trade systems."
The 2014 APEC Summit was held in Beijing Nov 10-11. Apart from India, President Xi also invited Pakistan and Mongolia as observers. The latter two attended.