1. The Fourth Consultation between the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) and the Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of India was held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, on 30 September 2005. The Consultation was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Soulivong Daravong, Minister of Commerce of Lao PDR and H.E. Mr. E.V.K.S Elangovan, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India.
2. The Ministers took the opportunity provided by the annual consultation to exchange views on global and regional developments, in particular issues which could potentially shape ASEAN and India economic relations.
3. The Ministers were pleased to note that, despite the challenges, bilateral trade between ASEAN and India continue to increase at phenomenal rates. From 2002, when ASEAN and India agreed to start formal engagements to establish the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), up to 2004, ASEAN-India bilateral goods trade grew at an annual rate of 22.2%. The biggest jump came in 2004 when total trade increased by 40.8% from 2003 or from US$ 12.51 billion to US$ 17.61 billion. The trend continues to 2005 where first quarter figures show that total trade, compared to the first quarter of 2004, expanded by 48.2% or from US$ 3.7 billion to US$ 5.5 billion.
ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA)
4. The Ministers noted the developments in the negotiations to establish the AIFTA and expressed concern over the slow progress in the process. The Ministers reaffirmed their will and commitment to establish the AIFTA and directed their senior officials to explore ways to show flexibility in resolving the issues separating both sides, especially those pertaining to the Rules of Origin.
ASEAN-India Private Sector Involvement
5. The Ministers welcomed the report of the Inaugural Meeting of the ASEAN-India Business Council (AIBC) which was held on 28 May 2005 in Kuala Lumpur. The Ministers, stressing the importance they attach to private sector involvement in the ASEAN-India engagement, called for greater collaboration and interaction between the AIBC and government officials in a meaningful partnership towards the realization of the ASEAN-India FTA.
LIST OF MINISTERS
The Meeting was attended by:
(i) H.E. Mr. Lim Jock Hoi, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brunei Darussalam;
(ii) H.E. Mr. Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, Cambodia;
(iii) H.E. Mr. E.V.K.S Elangovan, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, India;
(iv) Mr. Herry Soetanto, Director-General of International Trade Cooperation, Ministry of Trade, Indonesia;
(v) H.E. Mr. Soulivong Daravong, Minister of Commerce, Lao PDR;
(vi) Mr. Ooi Say Chuan, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia;
(vii) H.E. U Soe Tha, Minister for National Planning and Economic Development, Myanmar;
(viii) H.E. Mr. Elmer C. Hernandez, Undersecretary for Trade and Industry, Philippines;
(ix) Mr. David Chin, Director-General (Trade), Ministry for Trade and Industry, Singapore;
(x) Ms. Apiradi Tantraporn, Director-General, Department of Trade Negotiations, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand;
(xi) H.E. Mr. Truong Dinh Tuyen, Minister of Trade, Viet Nam; and
(xii) H.E. Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary-General of ASEAN