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India ready to sign FTA with ASEAN: Manmohan

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Phnom Penh: Prime Mini-ster Manmohan Singh on November 19 announced that India was ready to conclude the much-delayed Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment with ASEAN by next month.

Manmohan Singh  announc-ed that India was ready to conclude the much-delayed Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment with ASEAN by next month that would provide a “springboard” for rapid expansion in ties, as he invited investments from the 10-nation grouping citing “enormous opportunities.”

Contending that enhanced cooperation between India and ASEAN was crucial for promotion of peace, security and stability in the region and addressing shared challenges, he said the agreement in Services and Investment with ASEAN would send a strong signal of deepening economic engagement.

He also cited the steps taken by India to improve investment environment.

Addressing the India- ASEAN Summit here, Singh said India’s relationship with the10-nation grouping continued to grow in all dimensions, with commerce and connectivity being vital areas of this relationship in which good progress has been made.

He referred to the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agree-ment on Trade in Goods signed in 2009 and said it has served well, with the two-way commerce increasing to nearly $ 80 billion in the Indian financial year ending March 2012, exceeding the target of $ 70 billion.

“I would like to inform your excellencies that India is prepared to conclude the Agree-ment on Trade in Services and Investment Promotion before the Commemorative Summit in Delhi in December. This will be a strong signal of our deepening economic engagement, and will allow for rapid expansion in trade and investment flows in both directions,” Singh said.

The FTA in Services and Investment were delayed due to strong differences between the two sides.

The initiative involving the 10 ASEAN members and its partners that include Australia, China, Japan, South Korea New Zealand and India, proposes an economic partnership, which will form the world’s largest economic bloc.

The Trade Ministers of EAS countries will be meeting shortly to take the initiative forward.

Singapore was quick to welcome India’s participation in RCEP. At the ASEAN Summit, Singh said India attached the “highest priority” to ASEAN integration and believed in ASEAN’s centrality.

The ASEAN leaders said India and members of the 10-nation grouping should share and build progress, utilizing their strengths.