FTA with Thailand: India committed to ending talks by year-end

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India said it is committed to concluding negotiatons with Thailand for the proposed comprehensive free trade pact by this year-end, a step which will help in doubling bilateral trade by 2014. 

"We are currently engaged in negotiating a India-Thailand free trade agreement (FTA), which will embrace in its fold, investment, services and trade in goods, and we are committed to conclude negotiations by end of this year," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said here at the business meeting with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. 

Sharma said through these steps, the bilateral trade between the countries will be doubled by 2014. The two-way commerce touched USD 6 billion last year. 

The Thailand Prime Minister, who is here for a two-day visit, said: "India is today a world leader in the manufacture of drugs and in modern health care and the market in Thailand for medical equipment and supplies is around USD 800 million per year. Certainly this spells opportunity". 

He also said that the Indian construction sector, food processing and services can present Thai businessmen with investment opportunities. 

The two countries have already abolished the duties on 82 items under an 'Early Harvest Scheme' (EHS) launched in 2004. 

EHS is the initial phase of the proposed comprehensive FTA, which is to be upgraded into a full-fledged arrangement for reduction and elimination of duties on about 90 per cent of goods traded between the countries. 

The bilateral agreement will be in addition to the India-ASEAN FTA, which was operationalised in January, 2010. Thailand is a member of ASEAN

Besides the overarching FTA with 10 South-East Asian countries, India had already implemented a comprehensive market opening pact with Singapore and inked a similar pact with Malaysia last month. The country is also negotiating a similar agreement with Indonesia. 

Sharma also sought investment from Thailand in sectors such as infrastructre, agro-processing and gems and jewellery. 

"We welcome Thai investments for developing cold-chains, warehouses and food processing facilities which will be a contribution not just to the Indian economy but also to food securuty. We expect investments of USD 20 billion in the agro-processing sector in the next five years," he added. 

He also said Thailand can also explore investment opportunites in bamboo and rubber industry in the North-eastern region of India, which is rich in forest produce. 

Further, the minister added that the tri-lateral highway project linking India and Thailand through Myanmar is an area of hight priority for the country.

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