Asia Pacific Trade Agreement – APTA

The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement(APTA) was signed in 1975 between India, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Sri Lanka. It is the oldest trade agreement between the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It is also the first preferential trade agreement between developing countries. It was earlier known as the Bangkok Agreement and was renamed to APTA in 2005.

The agreement has seven signatories with a combined GDP of US$14615.86 billion and a population of more than 2921.2 million people. It is open to all member states and customs territories of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific(UNESCAP). The following table lists the current participants in APTA and the year they acceded to membership of this trade agreement:

Asia Pacific Trade Agreement countries

Country Year of Accession
India 1975
Bangladesh 1975
Lao PDR 1975
Sri Lanka 1975
Republic of Korea 1975
The People’s Republic of China 2001
Mongolia 2013(full membership awaited)

The main objective of APTA is to speed up economic development in the seven participating states. It aims to liberalize trade and investment which would promote inter-regional trade and strengthen the economies of the participating countries. It also aims to reduce tariff and regulatory barriers for commodities, technology and investments.

UNESCAP and Organization of APTA

The UNESCAP serves as the secretariat for the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement and assists with identifying prospective members who could participate in this trade agreement without negatively affecting their economy. The UNESCAP also facilitates negotiation of terms between the participating countries. The fourth round of negotiations between the APTA members is going on, covering areas beyond traditional tariff concessions.

The negotiations cover facilitation of trade in services, removal of non-tariff barriers to trade and investment. The following is the organizational structure of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement:

  • Ministerial Council: The highest decision-making body of the APTA meets once every two years. It provides overall direction to trade policy and supervises the implementation of the agreement.
  • Standing Committee: It administers the trade agreement through national and alternate focal points appointed by each member.
  • Secretariat: The Trade and Investment Division of the UNESCAP acts as the secretariat of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement.

The APTA is considered one of the most important trade agreements in the world as it is the only trade agreement that directly links India and China. The other trade agreements which involve India and China have them as observers or signatories who do not extend tariff preferences to each other.

Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement: Indian Customs

APTA is considered a part of India FTAs, though it is not a full-fledged free trade agreement. It is a preferential trade agreement covering specific tariff lines. However, almost all APTA commodities are given tariff preference by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs. The list of commodities covered under concessions on tariff extended by Indian Customs keeps getting updated as negotiations progress. Certain commodities may get added through negotiation or removed under prevailing anti-dumping and countervailing provisions.

Policies regarding preferential trade agreements like the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement are formulated and implemented by Indian Trade Service officers, who are selected through the Civil Services Exam. They supervise trade and export administration activities with the help of other All India and Central Services like IAS, IRS and IFS. UPSC aspirants should read about India  FTAs as a part of the Political Science and International Relations syllabus for Mains. These agreements also form a part of the syllabus of IAS Current Affairs related to the economy and international relations for General Studies in Prelims and Mains.

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