India, ASEAN agree to conclude services pact by Dec

India, ASEAN agree to conclude services pact by Dec New Delhi: Trade and economic ministers of India and 10-member ASEAN Friday agreed to conclude the ongoing negotiations to widen the base of free trade agreement between them by including services and investments.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who was in Siem Reap (Cambodia) to attend the 10th ASEAN-India Economic Ministers Consultations, reviewed the progress of talks with his ASEAN counterparts.

"India would be hosting a meeting of the Working Group on services and investment in the second half of September to conclude negotiation before the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in December in New Delhi," an official statement said.

The ministers agreed to intensify negotiations towards conclusion of the ASEAN-India Trade in services and investment agreement, it said.

Both the sides have already operationalised free trade pact in goods in January last year. The officials from both the sides are intensely engaged to include services and investments in the FTA.

These two sectors could not be included in that agreement as the two sides failed to reconcile their differences in time and it was decided to have a separate pact on these sectors.

Since 2011, bilateral trade has increased by 43 percent to USD 79.8 billion. India is the sixth largest trading partner of ASEAN.

"The Ministers tasked the senior officials to start review of the implementation of ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement, including the possibility for a package of product- specific rules of origin to further facilitate trade between both the regions," it said.

It said that the pact would facilitate to commence ASEAN- India discussions on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which would bring together a market of more than 50 percent of the world's population and 30 percent of the world's GDP.

The ministers also discussed preparations related to the ASEAN-India Car Rally . Sharma invited his counterparts to the flag down ceremony of the rally at Guwahati on December 17.

Further, Sharma met his counterpart from Myanmar and discussed expansion of items through border trade.

Myanmar sought investments from India in the fields of agriculture, mining, oil and gas and infrastructure development.

PTI