Malaysia today said the proposed agreement between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to open up investments and the service sector has met with resistance from some members of the 10-nation bloc who are concerned that free movement of professionals will impact their own workforce.
"We should have got the agreement going last year," Malaysian trade minister Mustapa Mohamed said at the India-Asean business fair organised by the ministry of commerce and industry in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. "We certainly hope to do so this year," he added.
Some member-nations are apprehensive about the movement of people as they are not sure of its impact on their own workforce, Mohamed said. However, there is an understanding that the relationship will not be complete without an agreement on services, he added.
India and Asean implemented a free trade agreement in goods last year. The pact seeks to eliminate duties on more than 4,000 products over six years. The two sides had agreed to extend the agreement to services and investments and were hoping to implement it by the end of 2010.
Philippine trade and industry secretary Gregory Domingo said his country's constitution "constrained" it from fully opening the service sector. He said the country faces problems not only with India but also with other Asean nations.
"We realise India is an important part of our trade and investment and we will try to move forward," he said.
India's trade with Asean countries grew 22 per cent to $50.33 billion in 2010. This included $22.52 billion of Indian exports and $27.81 billion imports.