Need to re-negotiate FTA with ASEAN to stop misuse by third parties: Piyush Goyal

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal on Friday called for a renegotiation of the India-ASEAN free trade agreement (FTA) to prevent its misuse by third parties and pushed for a removal of trade and non-tariff barriers that have hurt Indian exports.

ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprises 10 countries.

Addressing an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, he said: “It is unfortunate that in the recent past, India had to deal with several restrictive barriers on our exports in the ASEAN region particularly in the agri and the auto sector”.

The minister said these only result in reciprocal action from other countries including from India and will hurt the long-term desire of our leaders to expand trade between the countries.

“Therefore, I think there is a need for re-negotiating the existing trade relationship, trade barriers, relooking at our FTA with ASEAN and focusing on new rules to eliminate the misuse of the FTA, eliminating non-tariff barriers, and that can ultimately lead to building confidence on both the sides to reduce tariffs for inter-Asean and India trade,” he said.

As per Goyal, such a review will enable alignment with contemporary trade practices, procedures and regulatory harmonisation, curbing the misuse of FTAs, often by third parties outside the ASEAN region.

Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos comprise the ASEAN.

The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement was signed in 2009 and came into force in 2010.

Goyal also said that India has a big role to play to mitigate global health risks in future as 70% of global vaccines are now produced here.

“We assure ASEAN full cooperation in generic drug manufacturing. There is an opportunity for collaboration in pharma production including vaccines and capacity-building between India and the ASEAN,” Goyal said.

On the underdeveloped infra and connectivity in the region, he said that nine of 10 ASEAN nations touch the sea, therefore this region has potential to become a major hub of port logistics.

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