RM100 billion in the red, India seeks Asean trade review

The current free trade agreement has been in place since 2010

New Delhi: An Indian junior minister has called for a review of a free trade agreement with Asean, to reduce India’s US$24 billion trade deficit with the region.

“The review of the India-Asean Trade in Goods Agreement is pending,” junior trade minister Hardeep Singh Puri was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

“India’s annual trade deficit with Asean is close to US$24 billion (RM101 billion). The reasons are multiple and I would like in the coming months and years to see this trade deficit narrowed,” the minister said.

Puri made the remarks on Tuesday in a virtual conference attended by Malaysia’s deputy minister for international trade, Senator Lim Ban Hong.

He said a review of the Asean-India Free Trade Agreement would have the potential to double trade between India and the 10-member Southeast Asian bloc, according to a press release issued by the conference’s organiser Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The FTA was signed in 2009 and came into force on 1 January 2010.

The minister’s remarks reflect India’s growing dissatisfaction with the existing FTAs.

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said last month that the FTAs India has signed over the years have not helped the Indian economy.

“The fact is that they have not served the economy well in terms of building our capacities. I think there are ways of engaging the world which do not necessarily have to be FTA-centric,” he said in an online discussion.