PHUKET, Thailand (February 10) - Six Asian nations led by India and Thailand agreed to create a free trade zone encompassing nearly two billion people, but Bangladesh held out over compensation issues. Ministers from India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand signed a deal aimed at boosting investment and lowering costs in a free-trade zone by 2017. The smaller Bhutan and Nepal, the newest members of the economic grouping of South and Southeast Asian nations, also agreed to join.
Bangladesh, which fears lower tariffs may hurt it's manufacturing, said it would sign later after compensation issues were sorted out and cabinet approved the agreement. The seven members of the regional economic cooperation group, known as BIMST-EC, have a combined gross domestic product of more than US$700 billion. (source:Reuters)