The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Free trade with Thailand on cards

New Delhi, Aug. 6: The Centre is looking forward to signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with Thailand — its first such agreement with a member of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).

The government is also negotiating the possibility of signing a similar agreement with Singapore. It aims to sign a free trade agreement with all the Asean members by 2008.

“We believe that the free trade agreement being negotiated between the two countries will facilitate further growth in our bilateral trade, investment and services. It will also facilitate duty-free access to each other’s markets and enhance trade opportunities,” said Arun Jaitley, minister of commerce and industry, at an interactive meeting with Korn Dabbaransi, deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

Jaitley said, “India can learn great lessons from Thailand. These include the manner in which Thailand has built its infrastructure and expanded its tourism.”

Currently, India has 26 joint venture operations with Thai companies which are engaged in chemicals, steel wires and rods, rayon fibre, drugs and pharmaceuticals. Indian investment in Thailand from 1991 to 2002 has reached $984.39 million, while the approved Thai investment in India in the same period amounted to $782.7 million.

Stating that bilateral trade worth $1 billion with Thailand is insignificant, Jaitley said, “By the end of 2004, we must double it to $2 billion.”

Citing positive aspects of the economy, Jaitley said India was earlier known for its hunger problem and lack of food security. “But today our problem is tackling the issue of surplus food stores,” he added. He also said due to timely and abundant monsoons, the government was expecting the gross domestic product rate for 2003-04 to touch 6.5 per cent. Despite having the largest number of middle-class people residing in the country, India ranked fourth in terms of purchasing power parity and would move up to the third spot shortly, he added.

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