On Board PM's Special Plane: Negotiations on the much-delayed Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment between India and 10-nation ASEAN grouping are in the final stages and effort is being made to conclude these by next month.
This was stated by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma on Sunday amid expectations that the pact will boost two-way trade and investment.
"FTA in Services and Investment is in the final stages. Negotiators met on Saturday and Sunday. We hope to bring it to early conclusion," Sharma told journalists en route to Phnom Penh while accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the ASEAN and East Asia Summits taking place tomorrow and Tuesday, respectively.
"It is India's endeavour to accomplish this by the time Commemorative Summit takes place in Delhi next month," he said, about the meet being held to celebrate 20th anniversary of engagement between India and the 10-nation ASEAN.
India and ASEAN have already signed an FTA in Goods in 2009 but Services and Investment part is taking longer because of strong differences between the two sides.
Highlighting the importance of the FTA, Sharma noted that India-ASEAN trade before the FTA in Goods was just USD 32 billion and it has now jumped to over USD 75 billion, despite global recession.
He said India was keen on enhancing its engagement with ASEAN, a grouping of South East Asian countries, as it would "unleash" the untapped potential, particularly for North East.
This is why, a conference of ASEAN Economic Ministers is being held in Guwahati next month, he said.
In a further step aimed at enhancing India's economic engagement with South and East Asian countries, the East Asia Summit, taking place on Tuesday, is expected to formally announce launch of negotiations for a broad-based ASEAN Regional Economic Partnership agreement.
The recommendations for such an arrangement was made by the ASEAN Economic Ministers on August 30.
The EAS will "consider that recommendation and take appropriate view", Anand Sharma said.
"The Economic integration taking place in Asia has special significance not only for the region but also for the global economy," he said, while noting that ASEAN and India have built a partnership based on understanding, with the objective to promote peace and prosperity.
India's trade with 18 East Asia Summit countries stands at USD 194 billion.