India set to open trade with South-east and East Asian nations

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Rajesh Rai and Gurdip Singh

Singapore, Jan 14 (PTI) India''s trade in goods andservices with South-east and East Asia are set to get a boostwith signing of market-opening pacts with Japan, Malaysia andthe entire ASEAN bloc in the next 2-3 months.

Comprehensive pacts for elimination of duties and removalof obstacles will be signed with Japan and Malaysia inFebruary, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma saidhere.

"We have concluded negotiations for a ComprehensiveEconomic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Japan as well as aComprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) withMalaysia. We will be signing them in next few weeks,definitely in February," Sharma said.

Besides, over and above an existing Free Trade Agreement(FTA) with the 10-nation Association of Southeast AsianNations, a fresh pact for opening trade in services isexpected to be finalised by March.

Services are of major interest to India and they were notincluded in the FTA with ASEAN which was operationalised fromJanuary,2010.

"What we are seeking is to reach an early conclusionon an agreement in trade in services by March, that is themandate," Sharma said at ''India Show 2011'', organised by hisMinistry and the industry chamber CII.

The agreement with Malaysia would be ''ASEAN plus'', asit is one of the 10 members of the trading bloc. The bilateraltrade in goods and services with Kuala Lumpur would be moreopen than the bloc as a whole.

Similarly, in the next 10 days, a bilateral pact withIndonesia would also be initiated.

According to an official, Sharma is expected to visitTokyo and Kuala Lumpur by mid-February for signing CEPA andCECA.

The agreements are aimed at reducing or eliminatingtariffs over 90 per cent of the goods traded between thecountries.

A framework pact with Malaysia was finalised during PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh''s visit to Malaysia in October 2010.

The agreement is expected to come into effect from July andwould give a boost to the USD 8 billion bilateral trade in2009-10.

India''s trade with ASEAN, which stood at USD 45 billioncurrently, is likely to reach USD 70 billion in the next twoyears.

India would stand to benefit in sectors like textilesand services (IT, lawyers and accountants) in Malaysia whileMalaysia will get advantage in tourism and eventmanagement. .

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