BERNAMA - August 16, 2006
Asean To Set Deadline For India To Decide On FTA Talks
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 (Bernama) — Asean will set a time frame for India to decide whether it wants to continue with negotiations on the Asean-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a Philippine economic official said Wednesday.
Asean economic ministers will decide on the deadline during the 38th Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) meeting here, said the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry director Ramon Vicente T. Kabigting.
The 10-member grouping suspended FTA talks with India last month as the country was reluctant to open its market to Asean member countries.
"We value India as a partner but we cannot partner with the county if the conditions are like that," said Kabigting, who is leading the Philippines’ delegation to the Asean Preparatory Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM) for the AEM meeting.
The talks stalled as India refused to restrict further the list of products that it would not offer tariff cuts.
India had initially come up with an exemption list of 1,414 items and then trimmed it down to 854.
Asean has targeted to curtail it to 400 items.
Kabigting told reporters on the sidelines of SEOM that negotiations could not go on if India remained adamant.
Acknowledging that India might have its reasons for doing so, he said: "So we have to respect that. In the meantime, we cannot go on. We will just wait for a while until the Indian side has a different idea."
Kabigting said India’s exemption list affected items that were of value to Asean.
"They are underheating the things that are important to Asean. For the Philippines, it will affect about six out of our top 10 exports to India," he said without disclosing the products.
For his country, Kabigting said India’s list affected nearly 80 per cent of the value of what the Philippines exported.
Earlier this month, Asean secretary-general Ong Keng Yong said the group should complete the negotiations with India by July 2007.
The deadline to complete the talks had been extended twice.
Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.