India has expressed hope that the trade and investment agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) will be finalised by the time the two-day India-Asean summit starts here on December 20.

“I am sure if flexibility is expressed on both sides, we will be able to reach a mid-ground. There are a few areas in services…. but we have almost concluded everything, just a couple of issues need to be sorted out. In the areas of investment, there are a couple of issues (on) both sides. We expect these will be sorted out by the time the Summit begins,” Rajeev Kher, Additional Secretary, Department of Commerce, said on Tuesday.

Kher, however, declined to get into the specifics of the differences “in the interest of negotiations to conclude.”

Asked if the Government was concerned about Sri Lanka hiking the duty structure on the auto sector, Kher said the island nation was an important market for our cars and commercial vehicles.

“It is expected to affect our exports. India has many options. One is to operate purely diplomatically and point out to the Sri Lankan Government that it is a win-win situation (for them) because if they cut down the duties on small cars, in which India is very competitive, and also commercial vehicles, it will make a lot of sense,” he said.

On whether India was being targeted, Kher said “this is a political argument, which I would not like to get into.”

ashwini.phadnis@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 10, 2012)
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