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Industry views sought on `sensitive' items in FTA list

Our Bureau

Hyderabad , Jan. 25

THE Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry has appealed to the trade and industry sector to come out with its opinion on the `sensitive items' likely to form part of the Free Trade Agreement with Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations).

The sensitive list included items for which tariff concessions were not offered.

Presenting the key issues in the run-up to the FTA at a meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) here on Wednesday, Mr R.S. Ratna, Director (Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry), said the industry should go through the study conducted by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) on the issues.

The Ministry had asked UNCTAD to identify items for inclusion in the sensitive list based purely on economic considerations and current trends in trade.

The industry should find out whether it would be cheaper to import raw material, or an export item was included in the list. Or they could alert the government on items missing from the list. India and Asean signed a framework agreement in Bali, Indonesia, three years ago that included goods, services and investment. Some deadlines, however, were missed, Mr Ratna said.

The negotiations, delayed by a year, are expected to be completed this June. The tariff reductions were scheduled to begin on January 1, with gradual reduction and removal of MFN tariff rates. This deadline too was missed and extended to January next. Majority of Asean would be covered for tariff reductions by 2011.

Dr Rashmi Banga of UNCTAD India, speaking on the methodologies used in the study, said there were huge opportunities for trade with Asean. The total trade volume had risen to $16 billion in 2004 from $7 billion in 1998.

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