Financial Express - 15 November 2023
India seeks early review of Asean, Korea trade pacts
By Mukesh Jagota
India has urged Singapore and South Korea to speed up the review of trade agreements for concluding the process at the earliest.
New Delhi feels that trade agreements signed with Asean and Korea have not benefited Indian exporters much while the other parties have gained substantial markets here.
In a meeting with Minister of Trade and Industry of Singapore Gan Kim Yong in San Francisco, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal called for expedited conclusion of review of Asean India Trade in Goods Agreement (AIGTA). Singapore is one of the 10-members of Association of SouthEast Asian Nations.
At the India-Asean Summit in August in Indonesia both sides had agreed to complete the review by 2025 and hold meetings every quarter to meet that deadline.
The trade deficit with Asean widened from $4.98 billion in 2010-11, the first full year of operation of AITGA to $43.57 billion in 2022-23. The widening of the deficit by $17.51 billion in the last financial year is alarming as in 2021-22 the deficit was $ 25.76 billion.
Goyal made the request for speeding up the review of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) withKorea in his meeting with Korean minister of Trade Dukgeun Ahn.
India signed CEPA with South Korea in 2009. The agreement brought down tariffs on 90% of Indian goods over the decade, while India reduced taxes on 85 % of Korean goods.Here also India maintains that the trade deal has not helped Indian exports.
India’s exports to Korea went up to just $6.6 billion in FY 23 from $ 4.7 billion in 2018-19. Imports from Korea increased from $ 16.7 billion in FY 19 to $ 21.1 billion last year.
Goyal is in the US for the meeting of the 14-nation Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Members of IPEF also include Australia, Brunei, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.
Commerce minister also met US Trade Representative Katherine Tai for a bilateral meeting.
“We discussed ways to further deepen our trade and investment ties along with convergence on key WTO (World Trade Organisation) issues for a favourable outcome at MC13 (13th Ministerial Conference,” Goyal said on ‘X’.
The Ministerial Conference, which is the highest decision making body of the WTO, meets in Abu Dhabi in February 2024.