PM sets Indo-ASEAN trade target, to conclude FTA

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Singapore, Nov 21: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today set Indo-ASEAN trade target of 50 billion dollars by 2010, offered to simplify visa regime for businessmen of the region and vowed to remove all irritants with his ASEAN countries to conclude the Free Trade Agreement(FTA) by March next year.

''I propose that we set a bilateral trade target of 50 billion dollar by the year 2010. To facilitate this, I propose to formulate simple criteria for issue of visas to bonafide businessmen the same day,'' Dr Singh said in his address at the Sixth Indo- ASEAN Summit.

The summit was attended by leaders of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Phillippines, Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam, where the leaders extensively discussed not only the regional and international issues, but also the ways enhancing political and economic cooperation between India and the ASEAN countries.

The Prime Minister said that the most striking achievement is that of the bilateral trade which had already touched 30 billion dollar this year. India is now on a new growth trajectory, where sustained economic growth of 9-10 per cent per year seems possible.

''Our expanding market, human resources and strengths and science and technology and the knowledge economy are what we contribute to the process of economic integration,'' he said.

Referring to the FTA, Dr Singh said,''I have no doubt that we shall share a common political will to reach an agreement at the earliest. I want to assure you that on its part India has shown and will continue to show the necessary flexiblity and determination to achieve this objective. We will work together with you to concluded the negotiation, as agreed by March next year.''

He further said India was a willing partner in the integration of the ASEAN economies. ''Our officials have been enganged in active negotiations to conclude the ASEAN FTA.'' The Prime Minister also expressed India's keeness to join the open skies regime amongst the ASEAN countries, when it is finalised.

He also announced 1 million dollar for the India-ASEAN Science and Technology Fund to be used to encourage collaborative research and development and technology development to harness knowledge for the creation of wealth.

He also proposed India-ASEAN Working Group dealing with health.

The focus of the group will be on providing basic drugs at low cost through joint production of medical formulations. Next it could be on to develop a framework for cooperation in traditional medicine systems, which are popular in ASEAN countries.

On climate change, he said that it is a major challenge for developing countries. He suggested setting up of a network on climate change and asked ASEAN countries to share expertise and submit recommendations for common positions on this critical issue. He announced setting up of an India-ASEAN Green Fund for which India will provide 5 million dollars for pilot project to promote adaption and mitigation technologies.

He also stressed the need for intiating special programmes for regular exchanges among ASEAN parliamentarians.

Referring to cooperation in tourism and culture, he said, there is a need to set target of 1 million tourist arrivals from ASEAN to India by 2010.

Dr Singh said that Asian economic community consisting of an integrated market need to be linked by different modes of transport like road, rail, air and shipping. The creation of arc of advantage will be possible if ''we can successfully creat a robust institutional architecture for regional cooperation and action.''


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