No early insight in negotiations for Indo-sino FTA: Nath

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Gurgaon, Jan 16: The Government today said it is not expecting any early negotiations with China on the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), which looks to foster a closer engagement between the two Asian economic giants, as further discussions were required on the issue.

''We are not expecting any negotiations this year. The joint economic group, which is chaired by me and my counterpart will hold a meeting to examine the joint task force report,'' Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath told reporters here on the sidelines of the Partnership Summit 2008. The industry will also be consulted before we reach a decision, he added.

The Minister also informed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have decided to refer to the Joint Task Force the report on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the two will hold consequent meetings for the same. India has been keen on closer ties with its influential neighbour China, which has also been witnessing a staggering growth for the past few years. However, India Inc is against the idea as it believes it will face strong competition from the cheap imports from China following any FTA.

Both corporates and political personalities have been critical of the indiscriminate manner in which the FTAs are being negotiated. India already has FTAs with Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. It is negotiating such agreements with the European Union and ASEAN. There is also talk of reaching such preferential agreements with Japan and China.

The joint study group, formed in 2003 to study the complementarities between the economies of China and India, had suggested that there was a prima-facie case for a possible regional trading agreement, which needed to be studied further. An official level taskforce was subsequently formed to look into the issue, which is yet to submit its report.

There are also talks of an preferential trade agreement (PTA) to gain access to the Chinese market in the area of manufacturing like automobiles and components, pharmaceuticals and engineering goods and in turn, provide greater access to capital goods, such as equipment for power generation and telecom equipment.

UNI

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