Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

China shows keen interest in inking FTA with India

China has expressed its keenness to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with India to help further boost bilateral trade now estimated at $14 billion.

"We have received support from all relevant departments for FTA with India. We want to begin discussions. It is for India to take a decision,' Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Yuxi told reporters here yesterday.

He said bilateral trade, which grew by 79 percent in 2004, could reach $50 billion if all barriers on the way are removed.

The envoy also wanted India to grant market economy status to China saying it will have great influence on promotion of trade between the two countries.

Along with Russia and CIS countries, India at present categorises China as a non-market economy.

Sun says the situation has undergone change since China has become a member of World Trade Organisation agreeing in the process to several steps to open up its economy further.

At present, 37 countries have given China market economy status and "I hope India could take action in this regard early," the envoy said and suggested the two countries could also consider signing an investment protection treaty.

Indian industry sources say India-China FTA could outgrow India's trade with the United States and European Union, North American Free Trade Area, Apec, Asean and MERCOSUR (consisting of four countries of Latin America).

Studies suggest India and China are billed to become the top economies of the world in another half a century and the two countries could alter the international trade scenario now dominated by the US and EU.

China has emerged as India's second biggest trade partner and the trade balance is now in favour of India with China facing a deficit of nearly $2 billion last year.

The Chinese Ambassador hinted that the issue of FTA could come up for discussions between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao who pays a four-day visit to India from April 9.

Referring to trade-related disputes between India and China, Sun said it was easy to understand that more such disputes would be there as bilateral trade volume grows but added it should not affect economic cooperation.

He suggested setting up of a well-established mechanism for solving Sino-India trade disputes.