India will sign Asean FTA today

Ending six years of complex negotiations and overcoming political resistance from within, some as late as last month, India is set to sign the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in goods with the region's biggest 10-nation trade bloc, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma is in Bangkok to sign the agreement on the first day of the five-day 14th meeting of ASEAN's trade and commerce Ministers.The agreement will now throw open new opportunities for Indian industry and exporters as well as for ASEAN so that they can all engage with each other Sharma said. The agreement will eliminate duties on 80 per cent of goods traded between the two over the next eight years. Once the treaty is signed, some member-nations require ratification from their respective governments. "Negotiations have been painstaking,"said Sharma. "The negotiators ensured that our sensitive areas where we had concerns are fully addressed." He said that India's the only country to have presented a negative list of 489 items and a "highly sensitive" list of five that has been accepted by ASEAN. Palm oil and black pepper figure in the highly sensitive list. Indonesia and Malaysia pushed for lower duties by India on palm oil imports. Sources said could be in the region of 40-50 per cent.

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