India, ASEAN to Settle Free Trade Agreement

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Jul. 15 – India’s proposed free trade agreement with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to reach its final stages when both meet in Manila this Thursday.

The country’s FTA with the organization has been delayed for years because of tariff issues and is scheduled for implementation beginning January 1, 2010. If it is finally implemented it will cut tariffs by up to 4 percent on more than 4,000 products these include electronic goods, chemicals, capital goods and textiles in the next six years.

“Since the agreement will now be implemented one year later than originally proposed, the end dates also have to be logically extended by one year. Initially, the Asean was not agreeable to this, but we managed to persuade them,” a commerce department official was quoted by the Economic Times.

During trade negotiations, India asked for annual tariff cuts instead of twice a year. The country also specified that some agricultural products will be exempt from tariff cuts while duties on products considered sensitive industries like garments and automobiles will be cut by 5 percent.

India-ASEAN trade amounted to US$ 17.02 billion during the period 2007-2008, a 13 percent increase from the previous year. The group is one of India’s biggest trading partners.

The ASEAN includes the countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia. The group accounts to a total gross domestic product amounting to US$1.1 billion and trade of around US$1.4 billion.