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Over a period of five years, India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) negotiated a bilateral free trade agreement — with plenty of difficulty.

Under their initial bilateral framework agreement, signed in Bali on 8 October 2003, the India-ASEAN FTA for goods was supposed to be finalised by 30 June 2005. Negotiations on services would start in 2005 and end in 2007.

After a year’s delay, discussions ground to a halt in June 2006 when India released its ’negative list’ of items to be excluded from tariff reductions — with 900 products, both industrial and agricultural, figuring on the list. (This was down from India’s initial negative list of 1,410 items.) India’s agriculture ministry, in particular, was arguing hard to exclude commodities like rubber, pepper, tea, coffee and palm oil from the deal. Rules of origin have been the other thorny issue.

Two months later, in August 2006, Delhi issued a revised list, pruned down to 560 items. However, tremendous fears about the impacts of the India-ASEAN FTA on farmers continued to rattle the discussion.

By early 2007, in the midst of the new biofuels boom, palm oil became a central blockage point as Indonesia and Malaysia, both top palm oil exporters, struggled to get India to lower its tariffs.

On 28 August 2008, a deal was finally concluded. The agreement was signed in 2009 and took effect (trade in goods) with 5 of the countries and India in January 2010, (Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar and Thailand). India is pushing – without much apparent process – for a services liberalization deal with the ASEAN countries.

last update: May 2012

India, ASEAN likely to sign FTA later this month
India and the 10-nation ASEAN are likely to sign the long-delayed free trade agreement in services and investments later this month when their economic and trade ministers meet.
ASEAN-India services and investment FTA inches closer to implementation
The ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Services and Investment is one step closer to implementation following approval by Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce to accept the terms outlined in the region-wide agreement.
UPA may have left another can of worms in Anand Sharma’s free trade agreements
One of the most serious long-term damages done by any ministry under the UPA — in India — was commerce under Anand Sharma.
India, Malaysia step up palm oil trade
The Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is bolstering Malaysian palm oil imports by India
Process to sign FTA with ASEAN completed: Salman Khurshid
India has completed the internal process for signing the much-waited free trade agreement in services and investments with ASEAN which is set to significantly boost its economic engagement with the 10-nation grouping.
Gold may be excluded from free-trade agreement with India
India is considering withdrawing some products from the Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) with Thailand after facing a huge trade deficit, with gold likely to be excluded from the pact.
Now, India eyeing Mekong-India Economic Corridor
The idea of a Mekong-India Economic Corridor — a network of land and sea infrastructure connecting India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam — is gaining traction with the upcoming signing of the India-ASEAN services and investment deal.
India Inc unable to reap benefits of Goods FTA with ASEAN: FICCI
Indian companies have been unable to capitalise on potential benefits arising out of the free trade agreement on "goods" between India and ASEAN, industry lobby Ficci has found.
India-ASEAN trade pact on services by year-end
India and the 10-nation ASEAN are set to formally sign a free trade agreement on services and investments by the end of 2013 and implement the ambitious agreement by July 2014, a top official said Monday.
India-Asean FTA falters just before finalization over services pact
Issues related to movement of professionals under mode 4 and mutual recognition of qualification in medical and education are said to be the main roadblocks.