India proposes $50 Bn trade target with Asean

Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 08:00 Hrs
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Singapore: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday proposed a target of achieving $50 billion worth of trade with Asean countries by 2010.

The prime minister made the announcement in his speech at the sixth summit of India and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) here.

Manmohan Singh described India's deepening cooperation with Asean as "a win-win situation for both of us" and said both sides needed to simplify their visa regime for businessmen if they wanted to achieve the proposed trade levels.

"The most striking achieving of our engagement so far is the target of bilateral trade of $30 billion that we had set for ourselves for 2007 has already been achieved," he said.

"Given the results so far, I proposed that we set a bilateral trade target of $50 billion by 2010."

Manmohan Singh pointed out that exports from Asean member countries to India had grown phenomenally, at over 65 percent this year.

"This shows that India is a willing partner in the integration of our economies, and is committed to free trade."

He said India looked forward to signing a free trade agreement with Asean by March next year, pointing out that that both sides shared a political will to do so.

Indian officials have previously said that they are not very keen to cut tariff rates as demanded by Asean because that would hurt producers of Indian commodities such as palm oil, coconut oil and tea.

India, the prime minister said, will continue to show "the necessary flexibility and determination to achieve the objective" of entering a free trade pact.

He added that India would make training courses for Asean diplomats an annual feature.

The prime minister also called for joint production of medical formulations and for cooperation in traditional medicine systems that are popular in Asean as well as in India.

Manmohan Singh proposed the setting up of an India-Asean Network on Climate Change "that would pool and share expertise, exchange best practices and submit recommendations for common positions taking into account national priorities.

"To give a boost to this cooperation, I propose to set up an India-Asean Green Fund with an initial contribution of $5 million for pilot projects to promote adaptation and mitigation technologies. Once the fund is established, I invite other countries to make contributions as well."

Pointing out that more than two million Indian tourists visited Asean this year, he said the corresponding number the reverse way was only 280,000.

"It is evident that there is huge scope for expansion," he said, adding he hoped that tourist arrivals from Asean to India would touch the figure of one million by 2010, the year New Delhi will host the Commonwealth Games.

"I am extremely optimistic about the future of our partnership. The multi-sectoral approach towards our cooperation is the right one," the prime minister said. "I assure you that you will find an enthusiastic partner in India."

Manmohan Singh had words for praise for Singapore, the host country for the India-Asean Summit and the East Asia Summit, calling it "a country that epitomizes the qualities of courage, strength and excellence".
Source: IANS
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