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India, ASEAN seal FTA in services, investments

Posted on Dec 20, 09:45PM | IBNS

In a move that is likely to boost trade and strengthen economic engagement , India and 10-member ASEAN on Thursday finalized the free trade agreement (FTA) in services and investments here.

"It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to see that our Commemorative Summit today coincides with the conclusion of negotiations for the FTA in Services and Investments. This represents a valuable milestone in our relationship. I am confident it will boost our economic ties in much the same way the FTA in Goods has done," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his opening statement at Plenary Session of Indian-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.

He said India attaches priority to its relationship with the ASEAN.

"In addition, given that together we constitute a community of 1.8 billion people, representing one-fourth of humanity, with a combined GDP of 3.8 trillion U.S. dollars, it is only natural that India should attach the highest priority to its relationship with ASEAN," Singh said.

"We see our partnership with ASEAN not merely as a reaffirmation of ties with neighbouring countries or as an instrument of economic development, but also as an integral part of our vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Asia and its surrounding Indian Ocean and Pacific regions," the PM said.

Speaking on the issue of trade, he said: "India-ASEAN trade has grown over ten times in the ten years since we launched the annual summits. Following the implementation of our FTA in Goods, trade grew by 41pc in Indian fiscal year of 2011-12. Two-way flows in investments have also grown rapidly to reach 43 billion U.S. dollars over the past decade."

"As ASEAN investments into India have multiplied, ASEAN countries too have emerged as major destinations for Indian companies. From energy resources to farm products, from materials to machinery, and from electronics to information technology, Indian and ASEAN companies are forging new partnerships of trade and investment," Singh said.

"I am optimistic that our trade will exceed 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015 and we should aim for the milestone of 200 billion U.S. dollars ten years from now," he said.

In closing remarks at the summit, he said: "Our discussion today has demonstrated the unique strength of this partnership.I am heartened by the consensus in this room on the importance of this relationship to each one of us. We are united in our desire to improve connectivity, enhance commerce, promote cooperation among our institutions and deepen links between our people. We realize the strategic importance of this relationship in the regional and global contexts."

The Prime Minister said the 'vitality and durability' of the partnership would depend not only on the actions of the government but also on how the countries facilitate greater interaction between its people, students, scientists, academics, intellectuals, media, entrepreneurs, agriculturists and artists.