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India, Singapore Decide to Scale Up Trade Ties

India and Singapore today decided to scale up ties in key areas of investment and trade which has witnessed a huge surge from USD 4.2 billion to about USD 19.4 billion in the last one decade.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Singaporean counterpart K Shanmugam held extensive talks on entire gamut of bilateral relations and discussed ways to speed up air and maritime connectivity and coastal development.

During their talks spread over a working lunch hosted by Shanmugam, the two leaders agreed to work towards a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at the earliest possible opportunity.

Singapore being the largest foreign investor last year, the visit by Swaraj, who arrived here last night, is aimed at further enhancing investment to India in various infrastructure projects including the new government's ambitious 100 smart cities venture.

The two leaders hoped that negotiations for the second review of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement would be completed expeditiously to give further fillip to economic ties.

Apart from discussions on strengthening trade and connectivity ties, the two leader directed their officials to identify concrete projects in skills development, capacity building, rejuvenation of Indian cities and to enhance cultural ties.

Both the leaders also reaffirmed the commitment of their governments to further elevate bilateral relations and agreed to adopt a proactive and forward-looking approach towards building a closer and mutually beneficial partnership. 

In the meeting, both the ministers expressed satisfaction over strengthening of cooperation between the two governments in key areas of defence and security, economic ties, culture and people-to-people contacts.

The trade ties between the two countries are on an upswing since signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in June 2005. The CECA is considered the cornerstone of the intensified economic relations between the two countries.

"Both ministers expressed the hope that the negotiations for the Second Review of the CECA would be completed expeditiously, which would send a positive signal to the business community," said a joint statement issued after the meeting.

The annual bilateral trade had flourished in the last decade from USD4.2 billion in 2003-04 to around USD19.4 billion in 2013-14. Singapore became one of India's largest foreign investors in 2013, while Singapore is one of India's top investment destinations.

Swaraj and Shanmugam also reviewed the outcomes of the 47th ASEAN Ministerial meetings held in Myanmar's capital Nay Pyi Taw from August 5 to 10 besides discussing issues relating to Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, East Asia Summit and G-20 Summit.

The Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of ASEAN's centrality in the regional architecture as well as the growing and wide-ranging cooperation between ASEAN and India.

They looked forward to the signing of the Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment between ASEAN and India by the end of 2014.

"Both Ministers expressed confidence that ASEAN and India could work together to advance the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would be a high-quality, comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic agreement, taking into account the diverse circumstances and levels of development of different members," the joint statement said.

Both Ministers were confident that the RCEP will complement the ASEAN-India FTA and entrench India's strategic presence in the region.

Swaraj and Shanmugam agreed to hold the 13th consultative meetings between foreign ministries of both the countries at the earliest.

Swaraj also invited Shanmugam to co-chair the 4th Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) meeting in New Delhi later this year. Shanmugam accepted Swaraj's invitation.

The joint statement said Shanmugam and Minister Swaraj had a candid exchange of views on various regional and global developments.

The Ministers agreed to update their respective Prime Ministers on the progress made in various areas of cooperation.

India wants to explore the possibility of Singapore's involvement in major Indian infrastructure projects including the Smart City project and also whether it can participate in rejuvenation of other Indian cities.

In the budget, the new Indian government had proposed to develop 100 'smart cities' as satellite towns of larger cities and allocated Rs 7,060 crore for the ambitious project.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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