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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

ASSOCHAM seeks early India-ASEAN pact to boost trade
India needs to expedite a free trade pact with the South-east Asian nations to boost exports in the face of a global economic downturn and rising protectionism, an industry body said on Thursday.
Asean deal hits dual hurdle
The Indian government is likely to delay the free trade deal with Asean to avoid criticism of failing to protect producers during the slowdown.
Downturn may force India to postpone trade pact with Asean
The unexpected setback to exports and the associated problem of domestic unemployment may yet spike the government’s plans to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a powerful trade block of 10 countries.
ASEAN-India free trade agreement depends on Thailand
A free trade agreement between India and South-East Asia will be signed at the upcoming summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) if the Thai parliament approves the pact. Under Thailand’s new 2007 constitution all international agreements must first be approved by the parliament before going into effect.
Asean-India free trade pact to be signed in February
India is likely to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Asean during the 14th summit of the bloc slated for February in Thailand
ASEAN FTA by March first week: Jairam Ramesh
The Free Trade Agreement between India and ASEAN will be signed in the first week of March 2009. It will lead to tough competition from Vietnam, whose productivity in tea, coffee and pepper is much higher than India’s.
India-Asean FTA misses deadline for the third time
The “indefinite” postponement of the 14th Asean Summit in Thailand, following the sacking of the Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Somchai Wongsawat, by the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, has led to the deferment of the signing of the India-Asean free trade agreement scheduled for the third week of this month.
India firm on signing FTA with Asean in Chiang Mai
India is firm in signing the much-awaited Asean-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, next month despite some teething problems that may further delay the trade pact, said a top trade official.
India-Asean FTA stalls
The ongoing political crisis in Thailand is putting question marks on whether the India-Asean Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be signed by the year-end.
India’s ties to Asean must look beyond trade in goods
After the negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement on goods between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (the India-Asean FTA) were successfully concluded on August 28, consumers now expect to enjoy a wide range of duty-free imports such as textiles, capital goods, plastics and electrical machinery, among many others, from India next year.