Business Standard (India)
Prakash Chawla/ PTI / New Delhi
August 12, 2009

India and 10-nation economic bloc ASEAN will ink a free trade pact here tomorrow, which will open the 1.7 billion consumer market to each other.

After six years of painstaking talks, the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will be signed which will eliminate duties on 80 per cent of goods traded between the two over the next eight years.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, who is here to sign the pact, said the agreement is well balanced and is in harmony with the India’s Look East Policy.

"I can say negotiations have been painstaking. The negotiators have ensured that our sensitive areas where we had concerns are fully addressed," Sharma said.

When asked whether the concerns of plantation growers of South India have been addressed, Sharma said the whole debate of the CECA adversely impacting domestic planters was based on "uninformed" speculations.

FICCI Secretary General Amit Mitra, who is accompanying Sharma, said, "This agreement will be a win-win situation for India and the the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). It takes care of the country’s strategic interest in line with the Look East Policy."