Larger asia pact on menu
India and 10 Southeast Asian nations will begin talks for a wide-ranging economic deal on Tuesday that would cut trade and investment barriers, let New Delhi tap the oil and gas resources in countries like Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia and allow free movement of professionals like doctors, engineers and accountants across the region for employment.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is here for the 10th Asean-India Summit here, said the region has immense opportunity for business.
“Tomorrow, we will participate in the seventh East Asia Summit and launch the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations,” Singh said.
The proposed deal would subsume India’s free trade agreement (FTA) on goods with Asean as well as four similar FTAs the block has with Singapore, South Korea, Japan and the Australia-New Zealand combine. Once India signs an FTA on services trade and investments with Asean, that too would become part of the larger deal.
India is desperate to reverse its shrinking exports to Southeast Asia, which together with contracting exports to Europe, pulled down the country’s total exports by 8% in the April-September period. Exports to Europe contracted by 12%, while the same to Southeast Asia declined by 20% in the period.
India is also ready to conclude the proposed deal on services trade with Asean as early as next month before an Asean commemorative summit in Delhi in December. “”This will be a strong signal of our deepening economic engagement, and will allow for rapid expansion
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