CR Chaudhary, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Government of India, today underscored the need for an early conclusion of a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to give a fillip to trade and investment ties with the ASEAN countries.
In his keynote address at the ASEAN India Business Council Forum on the theme ‘Towards seamless business movements’, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India in New Delhi, Chaudhary said that trade between India and ASEAN stood at US$ 71 billion in 2016-17, comprising just over 10% of India’s share of world trade. ASEAN is India’s fourth largest trading partner and while two-way trade is back on track, registering an 8% rise in 2016-17 over the previous year.
Chaudhary said there was scope for doing much more. India, he said, looked forward to working closely with ASEAN in a range of activities in various sectors such as commerce, tourism, agriculture, environment, renewable energy, telecom, infrastructure, manufacturing, financial services, energy, green economy and skill development. A new area for economic cooperation is the blue economy on which India has been working with ASEAN member countries.
“It is our continuous attempt to promote dialogue among ASEAN and Indian business and trade associations to further enhance bilateral trade and investment. Our offer of US$ 1 billion line of credit in another initiative to enhance physical and digital connectivity,” the Minister said and added “While physical and digital connectivity are poised to seamlessly integrate us into a greater Indo-ASEAN community, our shared cultural heritage remains a strong emotional bond that already integrates us.”
Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia, in his special address, pointed out that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact should motivate the RCEP negotiators to conclude the agreement soon.
He said that ASEAN business was looking for a more open business regime in India and in this context welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to do away with red tape and roll out the red carpet for doing business with India. He welcomed more Indian investments to ASEAN, looked forward to greater cooperation amongst SMEs and closer links between Malaysian and Indian companies.
Rashesh Shah, President, FICCI and Co-Chair, AIBC (India), in his remarks, expressed confidence that the discussions at the Forum would lay a road map for future enhanced economic engagements between India and ASEAN industry through the collective efforts of government and business leaders. He announced that FICCI would work with the Department of Commerce to organise the 4th edition of the Indo-ASEAN Summit and Expo this year, a recommendation by AIBC in Manila last year.
Ramesh Kodammal, Co-Chair, AIBC (ASEAN), said that the private sector needed to create greater awareness of the trade potential between ASEAN and India, promote the involvement of SMEs in trade engagements and strive to achieve direct air connectivity between ASEAN countries and New Delhi.