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ASEAN deal not a sell-out, says Pranab news
24 August 2009

Seeking to allay fears that the recently concluded free trade pact with the Association of South-east Asian Nations was tilted in favour of ASEAN, union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said the agreement fully protects Indian industry and agriculture.

"We entered into the agreement to have advantage to grow, not to destroy our economy," he said, adding that some 489 industrial items and 303 agricultural products have been kept out of the purview of the agreement, being on the negative list.

India cannot remain in economic isolation forever, Mukherjee said, adding that the decision to sign the FTA with ASEAN was not a sudden decision, as India had been looking to strengthen trade and diplomatic cooperation with ASEAN from the 1990s.

Explaining the reasons for pushing further India's 'look east' policy envisaged in the 1990s, he told a meeting organised by the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee in Kochi, "Our exports have gone down. Sixty-nine per cent of Indian exports are going to economies which are in a difficult situation now."

He was referring to the deeply troubled economies of the European Union, which accounts for 36 per cent of India's total exports, as well as the US and Japan, accounting for 17 and 16 per cent respectively.

While India accounted for $24 billion FDI in 2006-07, ASEAN countries accounted for $60 billion. They are less than one fourth of India's total population, told the conference, organised by the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee in Kochi to discuss the implications of the FTA.

Mukherjee said the apprehensions of the farmers would be cleared once they understood the essence of the agreement. ''We have enough time to build our domestic sector and make them competitive in the international market. We have imposed several clauses in the agreement to safeguard our interests. To protect our domestic manufacturing interest we have a provision to impose an anti-dumping duty if we find the imports affecting our domestic production,'' he said.

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ASEAN deal not a sell-out, says Pranab