Palm oil only hurdle to India-Asean free trade agreement


Kuala Lumpur : Export of palm oil to India from southeast Asia remains the last issue to be resolved before India signs a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

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A bilateral FTA between India and Malaysia is also on the anvil.

The much-discussed FTA was pushed further during the visit here of Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, when an entire gamut of bilateral and multilateral issues was taken up.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the FTA would be signed once the palm oil issue was resolved.

“A feasibility study on a separate FTA between India and Malaysia has also been completed and discussions on the matter have started between our international trade and industry ministry and India’s ministry of commerce.

“Both our prime ministers had in a previous meeting stated that they wanted discussions on the agreement to be concluded as soon as possible,” Albar told the media after meeting Antony here Monday.

Albar said Antony had also expressed the Indian government’s wish to play a greater role in its relationship with Asean, The New Straits Times reported Tuesday.

“They hope to see Malaysia’s support on that matter,” he said, adding that the Indian government also hoped to see a “broadening” of the existing relationship, particularly in defence and trade matters.

The India-Asean FTA has been under discussion for long and a deadline had in fact been set for July last year. The two sides have worked long on the list of items to be included.

In the course of this discussion, India has pruned its list of ‘sensitive’ items to be excluded, in view of its desire to give its “Look East Policy” a strong economic shape.