ASEAN, India discuss global markets, Covid-19

The meeting was held as a precursor to the ASEAN and East Asia summits, which are scheduled to take place in Jakarta next month, ahead of the G20 summit in New Delhi…reports Asian Lite News

India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) registered a bilateral trade of $131.5 billion in 2022-23, while trade with the grouping accounted for 11.3 per cent of India’s global trade in 2022-23.

This was reviewed during the 20th ASEAN-India economic ministers’ meeting held on Monday at Semarang, Indonesia. 

Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry, Rajesh Agrawal, represented India at the meeting as a co-chair along with Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Trade, Indonesia. 

The economic ministers or their representatives from all the 10 ASEAN countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — participated in the meeting.

The meeting was held as a precursor to the ASEAN and East Asia summits, which are scheduled to take place in Jakarta next month, ahead of the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, at Semarang, the ministers also interacted with the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) and took note of the activities undertaken by AIBC in 2023, including the 5th ASEAN-India Business Summit held in March this year in Kuala Lumpur. 

The ministers noted the non-tariff barriers (NTBs) flagged by the businesses and appreciated the growing exchanges between the stakeholders from both sides.

They exchanged views on the regional and global challenges, such as the multidimensional impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, heightened volatility in the global financial market, inflationary pressures, and geopolitical tensions. 

Both sides identified resilient supply chains, food security, energy security, health and financial stability as the priority areas of cooperation.

The main agenda of this year’s meeting was the timely review of ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA), which was signed in 2009.

The economic ministers’ meeting was preceded by the AITIGA joint committee meeting, which deliberated on the roadmap for the review and finalised the term of reference and work plan of the AITIGA review negotiations. 

After constructive discussions, the ministers endorsed the review documents, which would pave way for the formal commencement of negotiations with defined modalities.

The review of the AITIGA was a long-standing demand of Indian businesses and the early commencement of the review would help in making the FTA trade facilitative and mutually beneficial. The ministers agreed to follow a quarterly schedule of negotiations and conclude the review in 2025. 

The review of AITIGA is expected to enhance and diversify trade while addressing the current asymmetry in the bilateral trade. 

The decision for review of AITIGA will now be placed in the forthcoming India-ASEAN Leaders’ summit scheduled in early September for further guidance.

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