Singapore PM says trade with India soaring

By agencies   |   Wednesday, 29 June 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that relations with India were set to soar with the expected signing of a wide-ranging trade agreement during his three-day visit to the country.

"We are signing agreements on CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) and a mutual legal assistance treaty. I think these two agreements will make for very, very good relations," he told reporters at a welcoming ceremony at the presidential house.

Lee, who arrived in New Delhi late Tuesday, is making his first visit to India since taking office last year.

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, given the green light by the Indian cabinet earlier this month, encompasses accords on trade of goods and services, investment protection and avoidance of double taxation.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh echoed Lee's remarks and said the trade pact "will widen and deepen our relations."

"Singapore is our gateway to South East Asia and East Asia and this is truly a historic moment," he added, speaking to reporters after Lee had been accorded a formal welcome.

The agreement, expected to be signed later Wednesday, aims to ease barriers for Singaporean firms to invest in India's fast-growing economy and provide greater access for Indian professionals to Singapore's services industries.

Lee said the agreement will open opportunities for both sides for greater trade as well as allow freer movement of people.

India will cut tariffs on imports from Singapore by 80 percent after the pact is signed, gradually reducing them to zero over a five-year period.

The agreement also calls for liberalization of air transport between the two countries, according to previous official statements.

The second agreement would provide the widest level of mutual legal assistance in criminal matters between the two countries, the statement said.

Singapore has invested $1.5 billion in India in sectors such as telecom, making it the country's biggest Asian investor and the third largest foreign investor.

India expects Singapore to invest an additional two billion dollars in the technology, manufacturing, financial services and aviation sectors this year.

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