Ending months of uncertainty, India and the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations today signed a crucial trade pact that will break duty barriers in the 1.7 billion consumer market in the region.
The pact on trade in goods under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) was signed by Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and ASEAN Economic Ministers after more than six years of intense negotiations.
The first phase of implementation is supposed to be over by January 1, 2010.
The pact, on which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has formed a GoM to allay domestic concerns, will eliminate duties on 4,000 items by 2016, covering 80 per cent of India’s imports from the South-east Asian nations.
However, as many as 489 items have been kept out of the pact, keeping in view the concerns of vulnerable domestic industries and agricultural producers. The main areas of differences revolved around sensitive agricultural products, mainly in the plantation sector.
The agreement is “well balanced” and is in harmony with the India’s Look East Policy, Sharma said.
Bilateral trade between ASEAN and India was of about $40 billion in 2007-08.
Industry body FICCI, which has accompanied Sharma, leading a business delegation, said that the agreement would provide access to the large ASEAN market to India.
“It will give Indian business access to the large ASEAN market; Indian industry does not have many concerns (and) sensitivities on agri products have been taken care of,” FICCI business delegation leader O P Lohia, present at the signing ceremony, said.
India’s exports to ASEAN were about $17 billion in 2007-08 and imports $23 billion.
Source: Business Standard 13/08/2009