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How Joining APEC Could Help India Eradicate Extreme Poverty

(AP Photo/ Rajanish Kakade )

India is an enormous, densely populated Asian country — the second largest by population after China and the third largest by area after Russia and China — and its economy is booming.

Yet the regional economic group representing Asian countries, allowing them to negotiate trade and strategize economic growth, does not include India.

And India wants to change that.

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The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum consists of 21 member countries from Asia and the Pacific Rim, and includes the United States, China, Canada, Australia, and Russia. The group was formed to “support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to the APEC website.

APEC represents 57 percent of the world’s GDP and 49 percent of trade worldwide.

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But India — which has a GDP of more than $2 trillion a year — is the fastest-growing major economy, and has the third-largest economy in the world — has been waiting for entry into the group for more than 20 years, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Membership in APEC would allow India to negotiate trade, integrate with the global economy, and help boost growth. Meanwhile, other member countries including the US could gain easier access to Indian consumers.

Inclusion in APEC could help India eradicate poverty within its borders, according to the Asia Society Policy Institute. To achieve the economic growth needed to help lift millions out poverty there, it needs greater inclusion in global trade, Fred Bergsten, a Senior Fellow of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told the Business Standard.

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The member nations of APEC will meet in Peru this month for the annual APEC Leaders’ Summit, and many in India and the United States will be watching to see whether the US will go to bat on India’s behalf for inclusion in the group.

A group of US lawmakers introduced a bill into Congress earlier this year that would require Secretary of State John Kerry to appeal to each of the APEC members on India’s behalf, arguing that it will help improve trade and provide job growth in India, according to the India Times.

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"An economically prosperous and regionally engaged India benefits the US' strategic goals on Asia," Congressman Ami Bera, the only Indian-American lawmaker in the current Congress, said in a statement announcing the bill’s introduction.

The bill has not yet moved forward.

The White House released a statement following a meeting between President Obama and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June saying that the US “welcomed” India’s interest in joining APEC, while Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in April that he would have conversations with Indian lawmakers about how best to approach APEC membership.

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Still, Blinken pointed out that the decision would have to come from a consensus among all members, and India’s history of tough negotiations in other trade talks has made some countries wary of its inclusion, according to CFR and Forbes.

The current members of APEC are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.

The meeting will take place Nov. 17 through Nov. 19 in Lima, Peru. You can make your voice heard on the issue. Go here to find out how you can take action.