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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

Talks on ASEAN FTA may resume next week
India and ASEAN will resume negotiations on the proposed free trade agreement next week in a bid to conclude talks by the end of this year.
Asean wants 600 items in free trade negative list
Asean has come up with a composite negative list of 600 products for the proposed Indo-Asean free trade agreement.
Next India and ASEAN talks on FTA in Kochi
After resuming talks on a free trade pact, India and ASEAN are likely to hold another round of discussions in Kuala Lumpur next month and later in Kochi, with a view to finish negotiations by the end of this year.
India to review sensitive list, says Nath
Despite the tense negotiations behind doors, India said it will now study Asean’s sensitive list comprising 1,900 goods before pursuing its free trade negotiations with the 10-member grouping.
ASEAN, India agree to resume FTA talks
ASEAN today requested that India make further tariff concessions in its list of goods and services offered under a beleaguered Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as the two sides agreed to resume FTA talks suspended by the 10-member grouping because of alleged lack of progress.
’Pacts on services, investment should follow Asean FTA’
Having submitted a revised offer to break the deadlock over the free trade negotiations with the Asean, India has now made clear that the pacts on services and investment will have to be implemented within a year of the implementation of the free trade agreement on goods.
India halves FTA exclusion list with Asean
In what is seen as a dramatic move, India on Friday slashed its controversial exclusion list of products for tariff reduction from 850 to 560 to kick-start the recently-suspended negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Asean.
Asean to set deadline for India to decide on FTA talks
Asean will set a time frame for India to decide whether it wants to continue with negotiations on the Asean-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a Philippine economic official said Wednesday.
India says ASEAN-India free trade talks not dead
Trade talks between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are very much alive, despite reports that they they have been suspended, an Indian minister said Thursday.
Asean suspends FTA talks with India
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has suspended free-trade talks with India because of New Delhi’s reluctance to open its markets, Malaysia’s trade and industry minister said on Tuesday.