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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 FTA faces hurdle at Indonesia end
The “last mile” talks on the proposed Free Trade Agreement between India and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has been further stretched as negotiators from India and Indonesia once again failed to resolve the dispute over their respective increased market access demands.
Indonesia hindering Asean FTA
Indonesia has turned out to be the surprise sore point in the proposed India-Asean free trade agreement (FTA) that was scheduled to be in place last month. Jakarta’s insistence on offering lower market access to India than other Asean members has held up the pact.
Indian minister sees ASEAN free trade deal in months
India is hoping to conclude a free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations within three months, the country’s minister of commerce and industry said Friday.
India-Asean FTA hinges on Indonesia, market access
The India-Asean free trade agreement (FTA) seems to have come within clinching distance, though the month-end deadline for concluding the negotiations will not be met. In the recent high-level officials meeting in Cambodia, the Indian side managed to make the Asean members happy with their side of offers. The Asean countries, especially Indonesia, however, have to come up with some more concessions to seal the deal.
Asean-India FTA talks enter final stage
Discussions on a free trade agreement between Asean and India are in the final stage with only one issue to resolve: the export of palm oil from the region to India
Asean FTA: Time to introspect on domestic oilseed cultivation
In the absence of a clear strategy to put our own house in order, the India-ASEAN FTA negotiations appear to be farcical. Negotiations are conducted between equals and in a level playing field. But here is a situation where everyone knows India is vulnerable.
ASEAN FTA talks may conclude in 2 mths: Nath
Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said that the negotiations in the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is expected to be concluded in next two months.
`Body blow to Kerala farmers`
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remark that India will show the necessary flexibility on talks for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) is worrying farmers in Kerala.
Bend, but not backwards
The “necessary flexibility” that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said India will show in order to conclude by March the free trade agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) may not be as daunting a task as some might imagine - because the gap between the positions on the two sides does not look unbridgeable.
Talks on to clinch FTA
India is willing to grant concessions on tariffs for the four agricultural commodities that proved to be a hurdle in finalising the India Asean free trade agreement but made it clear that it expected other countries to match its steps to wrap up the deal.