Trade ministers of India and ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Friday asked their negotiators to step up engagement in order to complete negotiations on a services trade agreement by March next year.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma met trade ministers from ASEAN countries at Da Nang, Viet Nam on Friday to review, among other matters, the India-ASEAN Services and Investment Agreement negotiations.
The ASEAN include Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
The ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the Indian delegation met at the Eighth AEM-India consultations meet.
Both sides should finalise the services text and concurrently complete negotiations on the schedules of commitments on the basis of the mandate of the leaders given in Framework Agreement of 2003 for substantial sectoral coverage and GATS-plus agreement, Sharma said.
He expressed hope that “ambitious and commercially meaningful offers” would be exchanged between the two sides.
India and ASEAN inked a free-trade agreement in August 2009, paving the way for setting up a common market, and giving about 1.7 billion people the option to choose from a plethora of products across countries.
Effective from January 1 this year, the pact will eliminate import duties on manufacturing products between 2013 and 2016. Both sides have drawn a “negative list” of products that would be outside the purview tariff reduction regime.
Although the agreement will pave way towards eliminating tariffs on about 4,000 items being traded between the two, India will be able to protect its interests in agriculture by keeping 489 items out of the trade pact.