Singapore, India working on Asian FTA

Today, India is ASEAN's number sixth trading partner.

Last Updated: Jun 18, 2013, 16:05 PM IST

Singapore: Singapore and India are working on a regional comprehensive economic partnership covering the 10-member ASEAN plus six major Asian markets of Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Singapore and India.

"We are working with India on the regional comprehensive economic partnership that involves ASEAN plus the six other countries Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, Singapore and India," the city state's Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said today.

"This is a huge regional FTA (Free Trade Agreement) which will integrate all of us and give India a concrete platform in its 'Look East' policy," said Lim at the India Infrastructure Forum held here.

Elaborating on the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), Lim said Singapore would want to play a pacesetter role in India-ASEAN relationships.

"The other area we think is very useful is for Singapore to be a kind of pacesetter for India in its relations with ASEAN," he said.

Commenting on CECA, Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the bilateral trade pact was set for further expansion.

"Obviously there is huge potential and still much of it has to be unleashed. In the next couple of years we will be able to unleashed more of what is already there," he said after addressing the forum.

Touching on the CECA review, Nath said: "Obviously you keep adding on to all trade agreements. Let's consolidate this and then let's look adding on." The CECA has also boosted performances of Indian businesses in Singapore.

Today, India is ASEAN's number sixth trading partner.

"I think there is tremendous potential for us to leverage the partnership between India and ASEAN. And Singapore can set the pace in that regional partnership," said Lim.

Bilateral trade has grown to USD 21.36 billion in 2012-2013 from USD 8.78 billion in 2005-06, according to India's Commerce Ministry statistics.

Lim highlighted CECA success, saying the trade between Singapore and India has grown more than 8 per cent a year between 2005 and 2011.

"Overall, we are very happy with what CECA have achieved," said Lim.

He elaborated "We are always looking at new ways we can work together. One is, of course, we need better connectivity and business links."

"Very recently we have made a very big increase in air connectivity between India and Singapore. But this is just meeting the pent up demand," said Lim, referring to the enhanced aviation agreement signed by the two countries in April this year.

The latest agreement enhanced by 10 per cent the capacity entitlements with Indian carriers now entitled to operate 29,400 weekly passenger seats from India to Singapore and the designated airlines of Singapore flying 28,700 weekly passenger seats from Singapore to India.

"I am sure if we have more linkages and more connectivity to other cities in India, the demand will follow. Connectivity is very important," stressed Lim.

Indian companies have raised over US$60 billion in bonds from the Singapore Exchange.

"They (Indian companies) have come up over a period of time but we see much more coming in recent years," said Singapore Exchange Chief Executive Officer Magnus Bocker.

"We see growing interests from the Indian companies to come to Singapore to raise money through the bond market," he told reporters after addressing the forum.

The Singapore Exchange hosted the forum today.