India, ASEAN agree to create EU-like free-trade zone


Domain-B
August 19, 2008

Mumbai: India and the 10-nation Association of South-East Asian Nations have reached a free-trade deal in goods that aims to create a European Union-style single market.

A deal that would create a larger trading block – covering a population of over 1.5 billion – than the EU is expected to be signed in December in New Delhi.

The deal that will cut import tariffs on goods, but not services or investment, is expected to boost annual trade between ASEAN and India, which currently stands at $28 billion.

The two sides have trimmed down the list of items for negotiations from over 1,400 `sensitive items` proposed by India to 400. Most items on the list related to agriculture or textiles.

New Delhi has agreed to cut import tariffs to around 5 [per cent from around 30 per cent now and committed to gradually phasing them out altogether within a few years.

Once the pact is in place, officials will start talks on liberalizing service sectors, such as finance, telecommunications and investment.

The ASEAN comprises of Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

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