India: India Likely To Sign FTA With Asean In Dec

NEW DELHI, INDIA: India may formally sign the free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in December this year, culminating over four-and-a-half years of negotiations, minister of state for commerce, Jairam Ramesh, said Monday (29 Sept).

“Once the FTA has been signed we will start negotiations for agreements on trade in services and investment,” said Ramesh, addressing a conference on ‘Emerging Asian Regionalism: Asean-India FTA and Beyond’, organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Research and Information System (RIS).

Stating that India had shown tremendous maturity and resilience, the minister said that despite the huge trade deficit that would be notched up, India had very liberal rules of origin as well as tariff headings protocol.

“Signing of the FTA is not just an economic decision but a strategic one. It is in India’s interest not just to look East but to trade East,” he added.

Once the Indo-Asean FTA had been signed, Ramesh said negotiations would start on services and investment in 2009. “Our trade with Singapore is the most balanced, thanks mainly to the CEPA (comprehensive economic partnership agreement),” the minister said. Similarly, he said there was need to move from FTA to CEPA even in the case of Asean.

On the other regional negotiations, Ramesh said the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec), which groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, would hold its summit in mid-November. The seven-country forum, which includes five Saarc countries, aims to achieve its own free trade area by 2017.

Stating that sufficient momentum had not been imparted to the movement, Ramesh said that Bimstec--a framework agreement for the Safta (South Asia free trade agreement) was in the process. Calling for removing trade barriers, particularly with India’s neighbours, the minister said the negative list with Bangladesh had been drastically reduced. The same, he hoped, would be done for Pakistan as well, he added. (The Statesman/ ANN)

MySinchew 2008.09.30


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