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Asean suspends FTA talks with India

Financial Express, India

Asean suspends FTA talks with India

26 July 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, JULY 25: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has suspended free-trade talks with India because of New Delhi’s reluctance to open its markets, Malaysia’s trade and industry minister said on Tuesday.

“They (the talks) have become difficult,” Rafidah Aziz told reporters, saying India has demanded that some 850 goods - which it imports from Southeast Asia - be excluded from the pact. Last year the list stood at nearly 1,400, she said.

The goods on the so-called exclusion list account for some 30% of Southeast Asia’s exports to India, she said.

India, which adopted a free market economy in the early 1990s, is keen to expand trade ties with the 10 Asean member nations, but wants to shelter its own sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, textile and other industries, which provide livelihoods to millions of Indians.

Last month India’s state minister for commerce and industry Jairam Ramesh said New Delhi expected a deal “in a few months.”

Malaysia’s Bernama news agency quoted Indian high commissioner RL Narayan, as saying India was serious about extending trade ties with the region and was ready for negotiations. “We remain eager for talks,” Narayan said. “We have revised substantially the exclusion list and met our obligation. We gave the list to Asean, Asean has to look at that. India is fully prepared to negotiate, we invite Asean to discuss with India,” he added.