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New Delhi: The comprehensive economic partnership agreement (Cepa) between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has inched closer with the ministers of both the sides endorsing the final text of the pact in Brunei on Wednesday.

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, who is in Brunei, participated in the Asean Economic Ministers (AEM)—India Consultations. In the meeting, the ministers took note of completion of legal scrubbing of India-Asean agreements on trade in services and investment, an official statement said here on Wednesday.

The ministers endorsed the texts of these pacts for the required steps to be taken by the participating countries for the implementation of the agreements. “This brings to the completion the comprehensive economic partnership agreement process between India and Asean," an official statement said.

Now the only formality remaining is formal signing of the pact.

During the Asean-India Commemorative Summit in December last year here, India and the 10-nation Asean had finalized the free trade agreement in services and investments. Both the sides had already implemented free trade pact in goods in 2011.

The free trade pact after its implementation is expected to facilitate temporary movement of business people, including contractual service suppliers and independent professionals in accounting, architecture, engineering services, medical and dental, nursing and pharmacy, computer services and management consulting.

Both the sides have aimed at increasing the bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2022.

India, whose services sector contributes about 55% to the country’s economic growth, was very keen to enter the Asean market. The pact would also help India to increase its stake in the region in sectors such as infrastructure. Together India and Asean constitute a community of 1.8 billion people, representing one-fourth of humanity, with a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion. PTI

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