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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

Gold may be excluded from free-trade agreement with India
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Now, India eyeing Mekong-India Economic Corridor
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India Inc unable to reap benefits of Goods FTA with ASEAN: FICCI
Indian companies have been unable to capitalise on potential benefits arising out of the free trade agreement on "goods" between India and ASEAN, industry lobby Ficci has found.
India-ASEAN trade pact on services by year-end
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India-Thailand free trade agreement talks move ahead
Thailand has indicated softening of stance on some of the issues in the freetrade agreement it is negotiating with India, bringing the pact closer to reality after more than 10 years of talks.
India-Asean FTA falters just before finalization over services pact
Issues related to movement of professionals under mode 4 and mutual recognition of qualification in medical and education are said to be the main roadblocks.
ASEAN-India Free Trade Area briefing
Backgrounder from Asia Briefing
India’s firmer eastward gaze
India’s free trade agreement (FTA) with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( Asean), which kicked off for trade in goods from 2010, is an important building block of its Look East policy, and its efforts to integrate with a wider pan-Asian economic community encompassing China, Japan and Korea.
Asean FTA conclusion sets stage for India’s massive re-entry to region
The India-Asean commemorative summit just concluded in Delhi has been widely acknowledged as one of India’s recent successful diplomatic initiatives. As many as nine heads of states and governments out of ten Asean states attended — Philippines sent its vice-president because the president was unwell — along with a total of 47 ministers, proving, if proof were needed, that when Delhi puts its heart into something, it usually turns out alright.
Asean services pact talks concluded
India and the Asssociation of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the 10-member regional grouping, moved closer on Thursday to completing a bilateral trade pact, by finalising a free trade agreement (FTA) on services and investments. They are expected to sign the pact in August 2013.