Asia Pacific Trade Agreement - APTA

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

With the trade cooperation among the members of APTA, the agreement could soon become a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement of Asia and Pacific (CEPAAP).

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).

Aspirants can read similar topics for the IAS Exam preparation from the links mentioned below:

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) RSTV – Big Picture: US-India Preferential Trade
World Trade Organization (WTO) Most-Favoured Nation (MFN)
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa BRICS
Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

About APTA for UPSC

Important Facts about APTA
Is the APTA and Bangkok Agreement the Same? Yes, Asian Pacific Trade Agreement was formerly known as Bangkok Agreement (1975-2005)
Participating States/Members of Asia Pacific Trade Agreement Seven:

  1. India
  2. Bangladesh
  3. China
  4. Lao PDR
  5. Mongolia
  6. Republic of Korea
  7. Sri Lanka
Which is the latest country to join APTA? Mongolia acceded to APTA in September 2020
APTA Secretariat The Trade, Investment and Innovation Division (TIID) of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP)
Ministerial Meetings of APTA
  1. The 1st Ministerial Council of APTA was held in Beijing, China in 2005. 
  2. The 2nd was held in Goa, India in 2007.
  3. The Third Ministerial Meeting was held in Seoul, South Korea in 2009.
  4. Fourth Ministerial Meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand in 2017 
Milestones of APTA
  1. In July 1975, Bangkok Agreement was signed
  2. China joined the APTA in 2001
  3. Bangkok Agreement was renamed as APTA in 2005
  4. Working Groups on Investment, Services, and Trade Facilitation was established in 2018
  5. Mongolia joined the agreement in 2020
Can other countries from different sub-regions join APTA? Note: All ESCAP developing member states can join APTA.

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

Year of Accession (Country-wise)

India 1975
Bangladesh 1975
Lao PDR 1975
Sri Lanka 1975
Republic of Korea 1975
The People’s Republic of China 2001
Mongolia 2020

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.

Kickstart your IAS Exam preparation now and complement it with the links given below:

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 the 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 the 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.

Aspirants must also read about the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), its member countries and objectives at the linked article. It was established in 1989 as a regional economic forum to promote sustainable growth and better economic relations among the member countries or economies.

UPSC 2021

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.

Why the topic, ‘APTA’ is important for UPSC?

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.

Frequently Asked Questions on Asia Pacific Trade Agreement

Q 1. What is the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement?

Ans. The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement or APTA is a preferential tariff arrangement that aims at promoting intra-regional trade through the exchange of mutually agreed concessions by member countries. Its current Members are Bangladesh, China, India, Republic of Korea, Lao PDR and Sri Lanka.

Q 2. What is the Bangkok Agreement?

Ans. The Asia Pacific Trade Agreement was initially known as the Bangkok Agreement.

To read more on IAS preparation, please visit:

Related links:

Current Affairs Quiz UPSC Syllabus
What is Asia Pacific Group (APG)? Strategic Importance of Indo Pacific: RSTV – Big Picture
Best of PIB UPSC Economy MCQ
IAS Salary IAS Hindi

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