India says it will concentrate on bilateral and regional trade agreements following the collapse of global trade talks at the World Trade Organization. Experts say the focus is moving to individual deals to ensure that countries can still benefit from trade liberalization.
India says it is confident its robust economy, growing by nearly eight percent a year, will not be hurt by the recent collapse of the World Trade Organization's global trade talks.
Commerce Minister Kamal Nath says India remains committed to multilateral trade, but will now emphasize accords with other nations, and regions such as the European Union, to ensure that trade grows steadily.
"At the same time, it is important that India's interests be protected and promoted to the extent that India is able to even engage more and more in the global economy," he said.
Nath says New Delhi is already discussing trade agreements with Japan and the EU.
Industry officials say India has been actively pursuing bilateral trade pacts in recent years with a host of countries, stretching from East Asia to the Middle East and Europe. Now, they say, such pacts will become India's primary goal.
The head of international trade policy at the Confederation of Indian Industry, T.S. Vishwanath, says many countries are interested in negotiating bilateral pacts with India, because it is now seen as one of the world's fastest-growing markets.
He says although India's largest markets have traditionally been Europe and the United States, New Delhi is now looking for closer economic integration with East Asian nations.
"We believe there is a lot of synergy with East Asia. We can work very closely with East Asia, the markets are closer, the competitiveness is nearly similar," he said. "We understand each other far better, we find that we will be able to work with them."
Indian officials say they are currently trying to sort out differences that have emerged over a free trade pact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN. It has already signed individual agreements with Singapore and Thailand, both ASEAN members. Those deals have helped boost trade with these two countries by more than 30 percent in the last two years.
India's economy is growing rapidly, but its share of world trade is still a tiny one percent. Indian officials say that with exports growing by 20 percent a year, they hope to double that soon.