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India, Japan likely to conclude FTA this year: Anand Sharma

The Hindu

India, Japan likely to conclude FTA this year: Anand Sharma

30 April 2010

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Friday said India and Japan will be able to conclude their proposed bilateral free trade pact to liberalise commerce this year.

“India and Japan are engaged in Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations and we will be able to clear this by the time the next bilateral summit takes place,” Sharma said at a CII function.

The summit is scheduled later this year in Japan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be attending it, Sharma said.

Sharma also said he will lead a large business delegation to Japan in the coming months to enhance economic ties between the two countries.

Officials from the two countries held talks here for three days earlier this month and are believed to have resolved several stumbling blocks to the market opening pact.

Issues such as liberalising sectors like pharmaceuticals and services - areas of great interest to India - have been resolved, they added.

On the occasion, India’s Ambassador to Japan, H.K. Singh, also stressed that the two countries should conclude the agreement by this year.

“We need to target the conclusion of the balanced and mutually beneficial CEPA before the annual bilateral summit this year,” Singh said.

Once the free trade agreement, officially dubbed as CEPA, is signed and operationalised, as many 9,000 products - ranging from steel and apparel to drugs and machinery - are expected to be traded either without duty or at substantially reduced tariffs.

The pact would keep a number of items, sensitive to the agriculture and employment-oriented sectors, out of the purview of both countries.

Each side will also have a negative list of items on which duties will not be reduced. India’s list would be bigger, with eight per cent of the tradable items under the pact included in it, while Japan would skirt about three per cent of its merchandise, sources said.

Bilateral trade between India and Japan has more than doubled over the past four years to about USD 11 billion in 2008-09.

 source: The Hindu