December 20, 2008
ASEAN FTA by March first week: Jairam Ramesh
Coimbatore , Dec 20 — The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and ASEAN will be signed in the first week of March next, Union Minister of state for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said today.
The agreement, originally scheduled to be signed last week, was postponed to February-March, due to the political uncertainty in Thailand, he told reporters here.
The FTA, which covers goods initially, will be expanded to services also, the minister said.
Once the FTA is signed, the import duty on tea and coffee is slated to come down from 100 per cent to 45 per cent and pepper from 70 per cent to 50 per cent by 2018, he said.
It will also lead to tough competition from Vietnam, whose productivity in tea, coffee and pepper was much higher than India, he said.
The minister, who was here to inaugurate E-auction system in tea, said the plantation sector is gearing up to meet the challenge from Vietnam by increasing the productivity.
When asked about trade relationships with Pakistan in view of the recent terror attack in Mumbai, Ramesh said tea exports to the neighbouring country will continue, but the promotional activities to increase the exports has been"put on hold".
The government wanted the growers to produce more orthodox teas, which are more preferred by people across the globe, he said.