India may sign free trade agreement with ASEAN

January 19th, 2009 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 19 (IANS) India is likely to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the 14th summit of the bloc slated for February in Thailand. Thailand’s Nation newspaper said that India would submit a letter to the Thai Commerce Ministry later Monday, saying it will sign the long-awaited FTA with ASEAN during next month’s summit.

Thai Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said the letter would confirm India would not attempt to change any of the provisions of the FTA, the negotiations for which concluded last year, said Bernama, the official Malaysian news agency.

To ensure that Thailand can also commit to the FTA, the ministry will soon ask for parliamentary approval to sign the pact, in accordance with Article 190 of the Constitution Act, which requires such endorsement for international agreements.

Under the FTA, ASEAN and India will be committed to liberalising trade in goods. Thailand now enjoys zero tariffs on only 82 items exported to India, the paper said.

Taxes on about 75 percent of trade in agricultural and industrial products will be gradually phased out by 2012, while tariffs for another 10 percent will be eliminated in 2015.

The other 15 percent consist of sensitive items that must be renegotiated.

With lower tariff barriers, trade between India and ASEAN is expected to increase significantly from the present $28 billion annually.

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