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2 June 2009

New Indian government pushes for FTA with Asean

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India is set to sign a long-awaited free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by (Asean) by October, German news agency DPA reported.

Free trade agreements (FTAs) with the Asean and South Korea are on the 100-day agenda of the newly elected United Progressive Alliance government, aimed at energising the economy, India’s state news agency PTI reported.

"All the differences have been resolved and the free trade agreement would be signed either on the sidelines of Asean trade ministers meet in August or at the Asean Summit in October," a senior Commerce Ministry official was quoted as saying.

The signing of the FTA would open the Southeast Asian markets for Indian exporters reeling from the shrinking of their main markets in the United States and Europe during the global economic slowdown.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said he would soon be approaching the federal cabinet for approval of drafts of the free trade deals with Asean and South Korea.

Trade negotiations with the 10-nation Asean began in 2001 but were delayed several times due to the differences over issues like the list of restricted goods, duty cuts on farm products including palm oil and rules related to value addition.

After negotiations concluded in late 2008, new differences arose on the methods of breaking customs' barriers.

The Asean bloc, comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao, Myanmar and Cambodia, accounts for 9.6 percent of India's global trade.


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