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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

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.
Hurdles galore on road to FTA with Asean
While the government’s decision to reduce import duty on palm oil could be interpreted as India’s signal to the Asean about its seriousness to sign the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) in July, several issues need to be settled before the deal is through.
India, ASEAN FTA to be signed by July
The much-delayed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN could see the light of day sooner rather than later. Over the weekend, the two sides agreed on the broad contours of the agreement, which is expected to be signed by July.
FTA consensus unlikely during Asean summit
The proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the Asean countries is unlikely to materialise during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the Philippines for the Asean summit beginning January 10.
Palm oil boil may delay FTA with Asean
Asean’s primary interest lies in palm oil where it has demanded that duties should be pruned to 30-40% within five years of the implementation of the agreement instead of 50% within 10-12 years period as suggested by India. At present, palm oil attracts a duty of 75%.
Asean not excited by India’s X’mas offer to speed up FTA talks
India’s Christmas offer to cut its negative list to mollify the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) to speed up the snail-paced free trade agreement (FTA) talks does not seem to impress the 10-member regional grouping.
Edible oils made India-ASEAN FTA out of reach in 2006
In a country where oil diplomacy usually relates to petroleum resources, the year 2006 must have come as a lesson for top trade and foreign policy makers.
Asean doubles its negative list for FTA with India
Asean has given a jolt to India by deciding to almost double its negative list for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with India.