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India, Asean to consider free-trade pact by ’07

Reuters, 10 December 2005

India, Asean to consider free-trade pact by ’07

KUALA LUMPUR: India and the Association of South East Asian Nations aim to forge a free-trade agreement by the start of ’07, both sides said after a meeting on Friday.

But Asean-member Malaysia said talks, due to be completed this June, could be tough after New Delhi wanted a host of items - from toilet seats to crabs and chewing gum - excluded from tariff cuts.

“India has put forward 1,414 items on the exclusion list which we cannot accept,” Malaysian trade minister Rafidah Aziz told reporters, adding “They represent 44% of Asean-India trade.” She said key items on the tentative Indian list included rice, textiles, palm oil, coconut oil and petroleum products. Vegetable oils and petroleum alone formed 77% of Asean’s exports to India, she said.

“The agreement will be effective from January 1, ’07,” commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said after talks in the Malaysian capital.

“We should go straight to the full FTA and that’s what we are doing.” Mr Nath voiced confidence that outstanding issues would be settled shortly, with another round of talks to be held in February.In ’04, two-way trade between Asean and India amounted to $17.6bn.

 source: Times of India