ASEAN Central Pillar of Look East Policy: Gogoi
ASEAN has emerged as a central pillar of India's 'Look East Policy' and this has paid rich dividends to both sides, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said today.

ASEAN was central to the emerging security and economic architecture of the region, Gogoi said at the inaugural session of the multi-sectoral business seminar on 'Potential Opportunities for Boosting Indo-Vietnam Trade and Investment' in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

A copy of his speech was released here.

"The launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations between ASEAN and its six free-trade partners, including India, will culminate in the formation of the largest free trade zone that will bring enormous benefit to the peoples of our region," he said.

India and ASEAN economies have withstood the global economic crisis relatively well with India-ASEAN bilateral trade growing by over 10 times in the last decade, Gogoi said.

The ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement in Goods has contributed to increased trade between India and ASEAN.

"I am confident that the free trade agreement in services and investment, once finalised, will give a boost to trade and services and facilitate movement of professionals across the region," he said.

"India and Vietnam share close and traditional ties, which have their roots in the personal friendship between our founding fathers Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh. This relationship has, with time, acquired a multifaceted dimension with cooperation in areas as diverse as defence and security, commerce, investment, culture, education and capacity building," he said.

The Chief Minister said infrastructure, energy, oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and agro- processing, healthcare, information and communication technologies and hospitality were some of the sectors which offered opportunities for mutual cooperation.

Assam shares a strong cultural and linguistic affinity with the ASEAN region in the form of the Tai-Ahom legacy.

"Historically, Assam has been a melting pot of various racial stocks, namely Indo-Tibeto-Burmese, Mongoloid, Austro-Asiatic, Aryan, Dravidian etc," he said.

Assam has the unique locational advantage of being situated close to Myanmar, the gateway to ASEAN countries.

"South East Asia is one of the fastest growing regions in the world today and enjoys the reputation of being business and investment friendly while Assam has the potential to emerge as a strategic base for foreign and domestic investors.

"Assam can tap the vast potential of contiguous markets of Myanmar, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and other East and South East Asian countries which constitute almost half of the world's population," Gogoi said.

The chief minister said the border points at Moreh, Sutarkandi, Mankachar and Dawki were opened for bilateral trade and commerce.

Assam's internal waterways network connected Bangladesh giving it access to the ports of Chittagong, Kolkata and Haldia. Thus, both the land and water routes were available to investors for re-export to East and South East Asia.

Assam's proximity to the SAARC countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan would also enable foreign investors to take advantage of the expanding opportunities for regional integration through intra-regional trade under SAARC Preferential Trading Agreement (SAPTA), he said.
Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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