Interview with Kamal Nath Minister of Commerce and Industry , India
INDIA-ASEAN FTA: LET THE TWO-WAY TRADE BLOOM
What are the dividends so far received from India’s pursuit of ‘Look
East’ policy, especially with the Association of Southeast Asian
India- Asean trade was $38.37 billion in 2007-08 with a compounded
annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27 percent since 2000. It is targeted to
reach $50 billion by 2010. India's Look East Policy has tremendously
helped India integrate with these economies.
The failure of the Doha Round seems to have prompted India to urgently
secure the FTA pact with Asean. Please share your opinion.
India's engagement with Asean is not limited to the FTA and has been
going on for many years. All the sides realised the potential for
greater economic gains through the FTA and have concluded the
negotiations by showing flexibility. WTO negotiations have only
'paused' and have not failed. We are committed to the successful
conclusion of the WTO Doha Round given the global economic and
development benefits this will deliver.
The trade agreement between India and Asean has yet to be signed and
announced formally. Could there be any further adjustments before the
deal is sealed in December?
A. The modalities are agreed between the parties. We don’t see any differences cropping up at this stage.
is keeping agriculture, textile and chemical sectors out of the free
trade agreement, or in the exclusion list. How will that affect the
two-way trade between India and Asean?
It is not true that these sectors are kept out of the FTA. In fact,
only 5 percent of the trade is out of the FTA. Tariff concessions are
exchanged on 95 percent of India- Asean trade. Therefore, there would
be negligible effect of our exclusion lists on the trade.
India-Asean trade has reportedly reached $20 billion in 2007, and is
expected to hit $30 billion by 2010. Do you see that happening, why?
India-Asean trade has already reached about $40 billion and we are
confident that we would achieve the target of $50 billion before the
deadline of 2010.
Asean-China mega free trade zone planned for 2010 may play an important
role after the breakdown in global trade talks. What is your take?
One should look at the broader goal of Asian economic integration. The
East Asia Summit in December 2008 would be considering a Report of
experts on the benefits that would accrue through a pan-Asian FTA.
India supports this idea and looks forward to positive movement on this.
How would the FTA with Asean help India in its perceived competition
with China for trade ties and access to natural resources in Southeast
It is our aim to economically integrate with the East Asian counties.
This would benefit all the countries involved, and would create a
larger Asian market that could effectively place itself in the
Asean’s accelerated drive for a single market in 2015, if it is
achieved, could see the EU, US, Australia and New Zealand, etc. joining
the list of FTA partners with Asean. What are the pros and cons for
The process would carry all of us towards an integrated market that
would provide benefits to all the economies involved. As a next step,
we look forward to broader economic integration such as Asean +6 that
could help integrate the Asian economies.
India has been actively pursuing trade and promoting bilateral ties
with Burma. Should India be doing as much in advocating democratic
A. This is not my area.