Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry & Railways and H.E. Tran Tuan Anh, Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam co-chaired the 17th ASEAN-India Economic Ministers Consultations held virtually on 29th August 2020. The meeting was attended by the Trade Ministers of all the 10 ASEAN countries Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to take collective actions in mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic and resolved to ensure macroeconomic and financial stability and resilient supply chain connectivity, particularly the unimpeded flow of essential goods and medicines in the region, in compliance with the WTO rules.
The Ministers’ discussion centred on the review of the ASEAN India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA). The Ministers appreciated the growing trade ties and deepening economic engagement between two parties. The report of the ASEAN India Business Council (AIBC) was placed before the Ministers. The AIBC Report has recommended that the AITIGA be reviewed for mutual benefit. The Ministers from India and ASEAN countries instructed the senior officials to start the discussions to determine the scope of the review at the earliest to, inter-alia, make the Free Trade Agreement more user-friendly, simple, and trade facilitative for businesses. The review will make the Agreement modern with contemporary trade facilitative practices, and streamlined customs and regulatory procedures.
Initiating the discussion, Goyal highlighted that the Free Trade Agreement has to be mutually beneficial and a win-win for all sides. Goyal expressed the need to strengthen the Rules of Origin provisions, work towards removal of non-tariff barriers and provide better market access. Minister Goyal reiterated India’s consistent position that the review of the AITIGA has been inordinately delayed and requested for closer engagement towards finalization of the scoping exercise, before the ASEAN-India Leaders’ Summit scheduled in November 2020 and to start the full review before the end of this year. Minister Goyal also stated that India and ASEAN shared a close friendship, strongly tied with historical, cultural and traditional bonds and this relationship will continue to grow for the prosperity of the people of India and the ASEAN countries.
India also made suggestions to further strengthen the AIBC and the Forum agreed to consider these suggestions to deepen the economic engagement between the two parties.