ASEAN, India to sign free trade pact in December: official

BANGKOK, August 8, 2008 (AFP) – Southeast Asian nations will sign a free trade pact with India in December on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bangkok, an official said Friday. Talks in Brunei removed the remaining obstacles to the pact, which will liberalise trade in goods between India and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an official with its secretariat told Dow Jones Newswires.

“With the development in Brunei, negotiators would now be working on finalising the text of the (agreement) which is targeted for signing on the sidelines of the ASEAN-India Summit in December,” the official said.

ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan told AFP on Thursday that the negotiations had been concluded on the deal covering billions of dollars in trade but not services.

Talks were supposed to have wrapped up last year, but bogged down over differences on products which India wanted excluded from tariff cuts.

New Delhi had submitted a list of 1,414 products, while ASEAN’s target number was 400.

At their annual summit in Singapore last November, ASEAN officials said the grouping would not resume negotiations with India until it came up with a bet