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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`s ASEAN offer alive to concerns of plantation sector`
India’s latest offer on duty cuts under the proposed FTA with ASEAN addresses long-term concerns of tea, coffee and pepper producers who are embarking on a major replantation drive, government has said.
Ministers differ on India-Asean FTA
Rekindling differences with his senior colleague Kamal Nath, Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh has written to the Prime Minister seeking review of the proposed reduction in customs duty on farm products under the Free Trade Agreement with Asean.
Ramesh bypasses boss, tells PM to reconsider clauses in FTA with ASEAN
Two days after Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar had a dig at the Prime Minister over economic reforms and 9.2 per cent growth at a CII meeting, Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh has cautioned Manmohan Singh over parts of the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN group.
India may relent on FTA talks with Asean
India is bending over backwards with regard to its free trade agreement (FTA) talks with an ostensibly disinterested Asean. Sources say the commerce ministry is now considering breaking India’s 709-strong sensitive list with a view to shifting some of them to the normal track, which entails elimination of tariffs latest by 2015.
It won’t be ’palm oil FTA’ with ASEAN: Nath
India will ensure that the proposed Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN does not end up as a ’palm oil FTA.’ Palm oil products currently represent 77% of India’s edible oil imports.
India offers new concessions for Asean FTA
India has offered a new set of concessions to the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), during the negotiations in the last two months for a proposed free trade agreement.
Tata forays into strategic sectors of Southeast Asia
China is making deep inroads in the region because of its trade initiatives, but Indian companies would be calling the shots in future, and the Asia-Pacific region might become a market for them.
ASEAN urges India to widen market
In ongoing trade negotiations, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged India to open its import market to additional key commodities, a senior Thai Commerce Ministry official reports.
India, ASEAN talks on FTA in Manila by March-end
India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) will hold what may turn out to be an "almost make or break [talks]" for finalisation of their long-stalled free trade agreement (FTA). Senior officials from both will meet in Manila by March-end.
India, ASEAN to finalise negative lists in Jakarta
India and ASEAN are likely to finalise and exchange their negative lists (items to be excluded) when they meet to conclude negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement at a three-day meeting in Jakarta from Tuesday.