Modi calls for FTA rethink, greater links with ASEAN during his Thailand visit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his four-day trip to Thailand welcomed a decision for a relook at a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and called for greater connectivity with Southeast Asia. 

Modi said he welcomed “the decision to re-examine the India-ASEAN FTA”.
Modi said he welcomed “the decision to re-examine the India-ASEAN FTA”. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@PMOIndia

India and ASEAN last month initiated a review of the bilateral free trade agreement in goods to make it “more user-friendly, simple and trade facilitative".

In 2003, India and ASEAN signed a Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation to establish an ASEAN-India Regional Trade and Investment Area, which would provide the basis for subsequent FTAs covering goods, services and investment. 

Modi said he welcomed “the decision to re-examine the India-ASEAN FTA”.

“This will make our economic links stronger and will make our trade more balanced," he said.

“We are committed to building stronger links between India and ASEAN with surface, maritime and air and digital connectivity," Modi said, adding, India had extended a USD 1 billion line of credit to bolster these links. 

Earlier, addressing the Indian diaspora at the 'Sawasdee PM Modi' event in Bangkok, Thailand, Modi said that his government wants to transform India's northeast region into a gateway to Southeast Asia.

"Once the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is opened, there will be seamless connectivity between both our countries. I am glad that all of you will have a chance to be part of this story," he said at the event attended by a reported 250,000 people.

The comments come at a time when India is engaged in tough negotiations with the ASEAN and five other countries – Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and China – to establish a regional trading bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal is in Bangkok for meetings with his counterparts for the crucial talks.