India concludes FTA with Asian countries

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Singapore, Aug 28 (UNI) India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations today concluded a Free Trade Agreement after some six years of negotiation for a pact that combines a market of 1.7 billion people and gross domestic product of 2.3 billion dollars.

"Determination", said Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, has help break through the deadlock in having established a tariff free trade pact with 10 different economies of Asean member countries. This is a step towards helping shape the global economy, he told a Singapore press conference held after concluding the FTA at the ASEAN Economic Ministers and India consultations today.

The FTA is also a major step towards the stalled Doha Round negotiations, which have been in discussions for seven years but are widely expected to be concluded next year.

India and ASEAN now understand each other's trade sensitivities, Mr Nath pointed out. The formal FTA covering trade in goods will be signed by leaders at the ASEAN-India Summit scheduled for December in Bangkok. A comprehensive framework agreement to have the FTA was signed in Bali in October 2003.

India negotiated the FTA with each of the ASEAN member country based on their trade pattern. It is to be effective from January 2009. The FTA would boost the India-ASEAN trade to 50 billion dollars by 2010, up from 30 billion dollars as end of 2007.

Mr Nath sees a further quantum jump in India-ASEAN trade after 2010. The FTA has provisions for a special track for tariff reduction for five products which are key exports of some ASEAN members, namely crude and refined palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia and coffee, pepper and tea from India and Vietnam.

India is also expected to commence negotiations on services and investment pact with the 10-member country ASEAN soon. It aims to conclude this pact before the end of 2009, opening up comprehensive economic cooperation avenues between India and ASEAN members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

UNI XC NC ND1020

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