FTA with ASEAN to be widened

India and the ten-member ASEAN block will hold parleys on ways to conclude talks before the August 2010 deadline to widen the scope of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to include services and investment expected to provide huge opportunity to Indian professionals to work in Southeast Asia.

The series of meetings on the issue will start in New Delhi next month and the two sides would discuss ways to expand the FTA they signed last August to cover services and investment. The market opening trade pact in goods was already operationalised on January 1. New Delhi and ASEAN aim to increase their $44-billion trade to $50 billion by the end of this year itself. The services sector is of key interest to New Delhi as it contributes over 55 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). It is also an important area for export earnings.

“This will be the first meeting on services after the FTA in goods became operational this month.” India had already sent its requests to the ASEAN members. The services negotiations are taking place on a request-offer basis, wherein both sides make requests for the openings they seek and offers are made by the receiving country based on the requests.

According to a CII report, the services part of the India-ASEAN FTA is crucial as India seeks market access for its IT, ITeS, health, education and other services in ASEAN with its rapidly growing middle-class. The ASEAN market is important for India as the region is a net importer of services and imported over $180 billion worth of services in 2008.

Trade Ministers from India and the ASEAN countries, which include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore last year had agreed that services and investment should be made part of the bilateral agreement by August 2010.

“We will get a clear idea about the feasibility of the August deadline when we meet next month,” a senior official said.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 2:41:02 AM |

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