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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 FTAs may hit SE Asian ryots
While India mulls another free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia and New Zealand, its FTAs with European Union and Japan remains shrouded in uncertainty with its decisions regarding intellectual property (IP) rights likely to impact not just India, but other developing South East Asian countries as well.
FTA with ASEAN to be widened
India and the ten-member ASEAN block will hold parleys on ways to conclude talks before the August 2010 deadline to widen the scope of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to include services and investment expected to provide huge opportunity to Indian professionals to work in Southeast Asia.
India to fast-track talks to sew up ASEAN services trade pact
India will try to expedite negotiations on opening up trade in services with the 10-member ASEAN at a senior officials meeting next week in Jakarta.
India seeks demand list from Asean nations
India has taken the first concrete step towards concluding a deal with the Asean for liberalising trade in services, including cross-border movement of professionals, sending a request list to all Asean members pointing out where exactly the country wants greater access.
Only half Asean members ratify FTA with India
India’s trade with South East Asia will be liberalized only partially from January 2010, as half of the 10-nation bloc has not received parliamentary approval for the Free Trade Agreement signed in August.
Farmers protest import of edible oils
Hundreds of farmers from across the State led by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha blocked the main entrance of the New Mangalore Port on Monday in a symbolic protest against the Union Government’s policy allowing the duty-free import of edible oils.
Making the Asean FTA work
The formalisation of Asean-India Free Trade Agreement (AIFTA) covering the goods sector marks an important step towards India’s deepening trade links with its partners in the Asian region. Viewed as the cornerstone of India’s ‘look east’ policy, this free trade agreement (FTA) would help the two partners unlock the tremendous growth potential that their closer economic integration could bring.
Kerala fishermen protest India-Asean free trade pact
The Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee (KFCC) comprising several fishermen unions from the state on Tuesday said India-Asean Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would adversely impact the livelihood of a million fishermen in the state as cheap imports will cut down demand for local produce.
Fishworkers call for march to Parliament on November 11, 2009 against ASEAN-India FTA
The anger among the Fishworkers, in the face of such a monstrous Agreement, was elaborated by T. Peter (President, KSMTF): “The Fishing Community in Kerala will take all measures to stop this agreement, and will physically prevent any vessel carrying fish from the ASEAN nations from entering Cochin Harbour”.
ASEAN FTA: CM demands apology from Union ministers
Accusing Union ministers from Kerala and Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy of "misleading" the public on the Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN countries, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan today demanded an apology from them.