Allaying fears in some quarters that the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will harm domestic agriculture, Commerce and Industry Minister informed the Rajya Sabha that majority of agriculture items had been protected by placing them in exclusion of the negative list where no tariff concession were available to ASEAN countries.

Replying to questions during Question Hour in the Upper House, Mr. Sharma said items on the negative list included vegetables, fruits/nuts, spices, cereals/grains, oilseeds/oil, natural rubber and tobacco. “The agreement also provides for a safeguard mechanism to address sudden surge in imports on account of tariff concessions. When such a surge is likely to hurt the domestic market, safeguard measures including imposition of safeguard duties can be initiated to prevent or remedy serious injury and to facilitate adjustment for the domestic market,'' he said . Mr. Sharma said 1,297 products including 689 agriculture goods, had been kept in the negative list. On reduction of tariff on tea and coffee, he said the tariff on tea and coffee would be 45 per cent each and that on pepper would be 50 per cent in 2020, a 1.8-5 per cent reduction from the present import duties.

Mr. Sharma said India was targeting a 40 per cent jump in its trade with ASEAN to $70 billion in 2012 with the signing of FTA. He said trade with ASEAN had grown to $50 billion in 2010 from $41 billion after New Delhi signed a Trade in Goods Agreement with the Southeast Asian block on August 13, 2009.

‘The agreement provides for a safeguard mechanism to address sudden surge in imports'