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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

Indian parts firms eye FTA potential
Indian auto-parts makers and renewable-energy firms are looking to Thailand as an investment hub for Southeast Asia because of the privileges offered under the Asean-India free-trade agreement, says India’s largest industrial group.
Fear of Indian pros holding up services deal: Malaysia
The proposed agreement between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to open up investments and services sector has met with resistance from some members of the 10-nation bloc who are concerned that free movement of professionals will impact their own workforce.
India, Asean to ink economic pact by year-end: Anand Sharma
India will sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) by the end of this year, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said Wednesday.
India pushing for services pacts with individual Asean members
Changing its strategy, India is aiming to enter comprehensive bilateral trade agreements with more individual members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, as a services agreement with the multilateral body remains elusive.
India-Asean services deal hits roadblock
The negotiations to conclude a services and investment deal under the free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the Asean countries have hit a stonewall.
Negotiating services with ASEAN
What can India do to show flexibility while safeguarding its core market access interests? A solution seems to present itself from the experience of the recently implemented ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA.
Govt to soon implement FTA with Indonesia, Cambodia
India will soon implement the free trade agreement (FTA) in goods with two more Asean countries — Indonesia, Cambodia — by slashing duties on hundreds of products including seafood, chemicals, apparel and tyres. In turn the two countries will also slash import duties on hundreds of Indian goods.
India-ASEAN services, investment pact negotiations reviewed
Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma met commerce ministers from ten ASEAN Member States at Da Nang, Vietnam, today to review India-ASEAN services and investment agreement negotiations.
In pursuit of mutual prosperity
Asia’s re-emergence as a global economic powerhouse is creating a greater degree of economic interdependence while at the same time helping to increase regional security among the Asean member nations.
Goods pact in hand, Asean goes slow on services deal
Having secured a good deal in merchandise trade in the free trade agreement, the ten-member Asean is dragging its feet on meeting India’s demand for liberalising trade in services and investments, especially movement of professionals.