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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

CPM forms human chain in Kerala over FTA with ASEAN
CPM chooses a unique way to express its reservation over Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN in Kerala. The party activists formed a 550 km human chain on a rainy Friday evening to register their protest against the pact scheduled to be effective from January, 2010.
The iniquitous perils of the free trade pact
Kerala’s rubber sector, in particular, will vanish if the free import of rubber from outside India under the FTA is allowed. Pepper, coconut, plantation products and similar commodities which form the backbone of Kerala’s economy will die, too.
‘FTA with Asean won’t hit fisheries’
Amid criticism by political rivals and apprehensions that the recently signed free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) would be detrimental to India’s agricultural and fisheries sectors, the government today said such fears had no basis.
Kerala ready for massive rally to oppose Asean-India FTA
"We are apprehensive about the agreement with Asean. This agreement is not going to protect Kerala farmers. Majority of our farmers survive on small scale farming and they can’t compete when the markets open up," Kerala’s Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran told Bernama in a telephone interview Thursday.
Centre counters anti-FTA campaign
In a rare move, India’s Union government has launched an ‘Appeal to the People of Kerala’ advertisement campaign to counter the ‘false propaganda’ against the Indo-ASEAN free trade agreement.
CPM gets set to protest FTA with a human chain
The Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, is pulling out all the stops to ensure the success of a planned statewide human chain on 2 October to protest a free trade agreement between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Tea planters seek financial cover against FTA ‘sting’
Tea planters have sought financial support from the government to counter cheaper imports under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that India has signed with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).
Fishermen, farmers to protest free-trade agreement
Many fishermen and farmers’ organizations in Mangalore have taken umbrage at a move by the Union government to sign a free-trade agreement with Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Planters seek relief from free trade pact with ASEAN
Planters of tea, coffee and spices in southern India are seeking financial support from the government to counter cheaper imports under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) India signed Aug 13 with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
India keen to enter Asean services sector
India looks forward to accessing the vast services market of Asean and is currently negotiating an agreement on trade in services and investments with the group.