India and South Asian trading block Asean have reached a free trade deal in goods, ending three years of talks aimed at creating a European Union style single market,only much larger in terms of population over 1.5 billion.
The last-mile talks held yesterday managed to resolve several contentious issues that had been holding back the two from reaching an agreement, said Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the 10-memberAsean."I have been informed that Asean and India have concluded talks on FTA. This will open tremendous synergies between India's one billion population and our 567 million people," he was quoted as saying by Bernama on the sidelines of the Asean Energy Ministers' Meeting. The two trading partners are expected to sign an agreement in December in New Delhi marking the conclusion of the deal.
Surin said he was happy the deadlock over the issue of agriculture products from Asean members,which had hindered the success of the talks, had been finally solved.
Trade between India and Asean reached nearly $20 billion last year and is expected to grow to $30 billion by 2010 and create an Asean Economic Communityby 2015.
"The FTA with India is Asean's fourth with a dialogue partner, following Japan, China and South Korea," said Surin, who was optimistic that similar negotiations with Australia and New Zealand could be concluded in the coming months.
Asean's senior economic officials (SEOM) met their counterparts from India during the Asean-India Consultations being held during the 4th meeting of the 39th SEOM in Brunei.

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