India, ASEAN close deal for FTA in goods

Written by Agencies | Singapore, August 28: | Updated: Aug 28 2008, 16:52pm hrs
India and the 10-member ASEAN grouping on Thursday announced concluding a deal for a free trade agreement that will break duty barriers for goods in the 1.5 billion people strong market.

"The countries of East Asia are important drivers of growth...with large consumption to drive global economies," Commerce and Trade Minister Kamal Nath said.

"It took six years for India to understand the sensitivities of ASEAN, and for the ASEAN to understand the sensitivities of India," Nath said at a joint press conference of India-ASEAN economic ministers.

The FTA in goods will be signed at the ASEAN-India summit in Bangkok in December.

Economic ministers of ASEAN countries welcomed the conclusion of the Trade in Goods (TIG) agreement which took six years to conclude.

Negotiations for trade in services and investment as a single undertaking will begin as soon as possible, a joint statement issued by the leaders after the consultations said.

"India is ready. The onus is on ASEAN to gather its team and start negotiations on services and investment," Singapore's Trade Minister Lin Hng Kiang said.

The talks on services and investment are scheduled to wind up by next year-end. Nath said Singapore will coordinate for the services aspect while Malaysia will take care of the investment part.

Indonesian Trade Minister Marie Pangestu said ASEAN and India had come to "a level of understanding never been experienced before."

She said the FTA in goods paved the way for more economic cooperation between the two sides. "This will lead to a greater integration between ASEAN and its dialogue partner," she added.