India keen to formalise FTA with ASEAN bloc
India on Thursday said it is keen to formalise a Free Trade Agreement with the 10-member Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) and a letter to this effect would be sent by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the next two weeks.
"PM Manmohan Singh is writing a letter to his Malaysian counterpart Abdullah Badawi expressing his keenness to finalise the FTA with ASEAN," Minister of State for Defence Procurement Rao Inderjit Singh told Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, whose country is the current Chair of the grouping, during a bilateral meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
The letter would be carried to Kuala Lumpur by Commerce Minister Kamal Nath either on August three or August seven, Singh said.
Singh is in Kuala Lumpur to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum, the security grouping of the Asia-Pacific region.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday afternoon to take part in the meeting.
"We are very interested in the FTA with ASEAN and from the original list of 1400 items we have got it down to around 850 items," Singh said adding, there was scope for further reduction but the country must remain engaged with ASEAN.
"Today ASEAN is at the heart of India's 'Look East' policy and we are interested in FTA talks," Singh noted.
Singh's comments came after remarks by Malaysia's International Trade minister Rafidah Aziz to the media a couple of days ago that ASEAN had suspended FTA talks with India.