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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 FTA with India likely to be delayed again
Economic ministers from the 10 Southeast Asian countries will sign the Asean-China Investment Agreement during the 41st Asean Economic Ministers this week, but the long-delayed free trade pact with India is likely to be postponed again.
Kerala fights clock in ASEAN free-trade deal
"If this FTA goes through, pepper may cease to be produced in Kerala, the land where it originated," says Thomas Verghese, a distinguished agricultural scientist and chairman of the Kerala State Prices Board
Asean FTA gives coffee growers sleepless nights
Leaders from Kerala have vociferously opposed the Asean free trade agreement that could impact its farmers in future. The same cannot be said about many coffee growers who have little political muscle. Karnataka produces 70% of coffee in India.
VS asks PM to make FTA details public
The India-ASEAN FTA issue is fast becoming a topic of political one-upmanship in Kerala with the Congress and the Left trying to score points over each other.
India to protect farmers in goods agreement with ASEAN: PM
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ensured that the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement would protect the interests of Indian farmers by yielding no tariff concession to ASEAN countries, said a senior Indian government official on Monday.
Signing of FTA will push fishing sector into deep crisis
Stating that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN countries would push the fishing sector into deep crisis in the state, Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) today urged the Centre to go back from its decision to sign the agreement.
FTA with ASEAN will affect farm sector: Kisan Sabha
Maintaining that the agriculture sector would be hit hard if the country implemented the Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, All India Kisan Sabha today urged the Opposition Congress in Kerala to oppose the proposed treaty in the interest of state farmers.
Kerala resents move to implement ASEAN free trade pact
"The [Kerala State] government’s firm view is that implementation of the ASEAN agreement would trigger a grim crisis in the farm sector in the country in general and that of Kerala in particular,"an official spokesperson said.
No takers for Antony’s opposition to Indo-Asean FTA
One of India’s Ministers raised concerns about the proposed India-ASEAN FTA, concerned about the negative impacts it could have domestically in India and particularly on his home state Kerala; but not all in the Cabinet of Ministers seem to support that view.
Indian politicians oppose Asean-India FTA
Fearing millions of farmers will suffer, Indian politicians are vehemently objecting at the eleventh hour to the almost finalised Asean-India Free Trade Agreement.