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India set to open trade with South-east and East Asian nations

India set to open trade with South-east and East Asian nations

Singapore: India’s trade in goods and services with South-east and East Asia are set to get a boost with signing of market-opening pacts with Japan, Malaysia and the entire ASEAN bloc in the next 2-3 months.

Comprehensive pacts for elimination of duties and removal of obstacles will be signed with Japan and Malaysia in February, Commerce and Industry minister Anand Sharma said here.

“We have concluded negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Japan as well as a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Malaysia. We will be signing them in next few weeks, definitely in February," Sharma said.

Besides, over and above an existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a fresh pact for opening trade in services is expected to be finalised by March.

Services are of major interest to India and they were not included in the FTA with ASEAN which was operationalised from January,2010.

“What we are seeking is to reach an early conclusion on an agreement in trade in services by March, that is the mandate," Sharma said at ‘India Show 2011´, organised by his Ministry and the industry chamber CII.

The agreement with Malaysia would be ‘ASEAN plus´, as it is one of the 10 members of the trading bloc. The bilateral trade in goods and services with Kuala Lumpur would be more open than the bloc as a whole.

Similarly, in the next 10 days, a bilateral pact with Indonesia would also be initiated.

According to an official, Sharma is expected to visit Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur by mid-February for signing CEPA and CECA.

The agreements are aimed at reducing or eliminating tariffs over 90% of the goods traded between the countries.

A framework pact with Malaysia was finalised during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Malaysia in October 2010. The agreement is expected to come into effect from July and would give a boost to the $8 billion bilateral trade in 2009-10.

India’s trade with ASEAN, which stood at $45 billion currently, is likely to reach $70 billion in the next two years.

India would stand to benefit in sectors like textiles and services (IT, lawyers and accountants) in Malaysia while Malaysia will get advantage in tourism and event management.

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