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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

Fishing boats blockade shipping channel in protest against ASEAN trade pact
Scores of mechanised fishing boats and crafts blockaded the shipping channel at Fort Kochi on Monday as a show of protest against the export-import agreement India has signed with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
CPI(M) concerned over ASEAN FTA
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Sunday expressed concern at the free trade agreement with the ASEAN countries and termed as “intriguing” the move by India to break the so-called deadlock in the World Trade Organisation’s talks.
Annul FTA: Solidarity to Centre
The Solidarity Youth Movement in Kerala today urged the Cental Government to immediately abrogate the Free Trade Agreement signed with the 10-nation bloc ASEAN as it would adversely affect the country as a whole.
FTA with ASEAN should be mutually beneficial:Bajaj
The Free Trade Agreement signed by India with the 10-member bloc of ASEAN should be mutually beneficial, leading industrialist Rahul Bajaj has said.
Don’t relax steel import tariff barriers, say industry leaders
Some of the country’s largest steelmakers have asked the government not to bring the commodity under the purview of the recently signed free-trade agreements with Asean and Korea.
Farmer’s body slams signing of FTA with ASEAN
The All India Kisan Sabha has issued a statement criticising the centre for signing a Free Trade Agreement with the ASEAN nations.
India signs FTA with ASEAN amidst protests
Labour organisations, farmers, civil society organisations and experts urged the government of India not to implement India-ASEAN FTA
Comrades cry foul as India signs FTA with ASEAN
The Indian government came under attack from the Opposition, particularly the Left, for “rushing into” signing the free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN. The Left parties said the entire issue lacked transparency as the details of the FTA are kept under wraps.
India-ASEAN pact detrimental to farmers, claims Achuthanandan
Hours after the free trade agreement was signed with the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations in Bangkok, Kerala’s Chief Minister told reporters that it would lead farmers in the state to commit suicide.
India, ASEAN sign deal on free trade in goods
India and the 10-country Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN signed a free trade agreement on Thursday after more than six years of negotiations, but the deal did not embrace software and information technology.