India has rejected the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) demand for a further reduction in import duty and for fast-tracking duty reductions on crude palm oil, refined palm oil, tea and black pepper. It has also sought the negative list of all Asean members ahead of the next meeting at Jakarta on 31 March.
“We have conveyed to Asean that we are unable to offer any further cuts on the four items or fast track the reduction. We have so far received the negative list of just seven members. Singapore, the Philippines and Cambodia have not submitted their lists so far. We are hopeful that some of the outstanding issues can be settled at the next meeting,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
A meeting of officials from the two sides had been held at Jakarta last week.
Both sides had earlier agreed to restrict their negative list to 490 items or 5% of the total tariff lines.
India had offered to reduce duties on crude palm oil, black tea and black pepper to 50% and on refined palm oil to 60% in a phased manner by 2022. Asean wanted bigger cuts on these items and that the reduction begin in the first year and be completely implemented by 2018. New Delhi has unilaterally reduced the import duty on crude palm oil to 80% and on refined palm oil to 70% in August 2006, and further to 70% and 60% respectively from January 2007.
Asean has also renewed its demand for more items being included in the zero-duty list. “They have asked us to bring 83% of the tariff lines under the list,” the official said. India has so far offered to bring down duties on 4,021 items to zero by 2011 under the ‘normal track’. These items cover 77% of the total traded items.
Officials said New Delhi had also conveyed its inability to accept a request from Singapore to fast track the duty reduction offered on items under the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to 2009 instead of 2011. A meeting of officials to discuss the CECA was also held last week.
“Singapore wants us to reduce the duties two years ahead of the time frame given to Asean. We have said that we are not in a position to go beyond the Asean mandate at the moment,” the official said.