India seals free-trade pact with Thailand

Times of India | 7 Jun 2009

India seals free-trade pact with Thailand

NEW DELHI: India took its trade diplomacy up several notches with negotiators wrapping up a free trade deal in goods with other BIMSTEC countries, ie. Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.

Officials from all the countries met in Thai resort Phuket to conclude the negotiations after 18 rounds since 2004. Commerce ministers are expected to approve the deal in the coming months, paving the way for a signing possibly by year’s end. The India-Asean FTA too is waiting for a signature around October, which is the time Thailand has set for the twice-postponed East Asia Summit.

Politically, this deal envelopes Thailand and Myanmar into the South Asian region, while keeping Pakistan and China out.

Consequently, India’s responsibility in making the deal work is much higher.

Its likely the ongoing recession imparted a sense of urgency to concluding negotiations, because estimates say the deal will involve over $3 billion in mutual trade among these countries, several of them, like Nepal and Bangladesh being LDCs. This is expected to boost their economic prospects significantly.

The free trade agreement will be in addition to other agreements that are already in play. For instance, India already has an FTA with Sri Lanka. Thailand and Myanmar will be covered under the India-Asean FTA as well.

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source: ToI