Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ensured that the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement would protect the interests of Indian farmers by yielding no tariff concession to ASEAN countries, said a senior Indian government official on Monday.
Singh told representatives from Kerala, southern India, Monday evening that a Group of Ministers with representation from Ministers from Kerala is being set up to ensure that the interests of Kerala are fully protected in the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement.
The Group will consult with the Chief Minister of Kerala on matters relating to the interests of Kerala, said the official on condition of anonymity.
The proposed Trade in Goods Agreement has a negative list of 489 tariff lines of which 302 are of the agriculture sector. These include many of the items of interest to Kerala such as cashew nut kernels, natural rubber, marine products such as tunas, shrimp and prawn, according to the official.
The list has been drawn up after a series of consultations with the stakeholders and government agencies.
As far as tariff concession on palm oil is concerned, India has agreed to reduce tariff on Crude Palm Oil (CPO), Refined Palm Oil (RPO) to 37.5 percent and 42.5 percent respectively by December 31,2018.
Incidentally, the current tariff on CPO and RPO are zero percent and 7.5 percent respectively. Thus, it would be seen that India has negotiated a very high level of protection for the domestic edible oil producers by proposing a high level of tariff even at the end date of December 31, 2018, the official said.
The India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement negotiations were twice suspended primarily because of India's insistence on providing strong protection to its agriculture and labor intensive sectors.