PM for Enhanced Cooperation Between India, ASEAN
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced that India is ready to conclude the much- delayed Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment with ASEAN by next month that will 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 will 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 the 10-nation grouping continues 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 Agreement on Trade in Goods signed in 2009 and said it has served well, with the two-way commerce increasing to nearly USD 80 billion in the Indian financial year ending March 2012, exceeding the target of USD 70 billion.

"I would like to inform Your Excellencies that India is prepared to conclude the Agreement 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.

"I have no doubt that the conclusion of the Agreement on Trade in Services and Investments, together with our existing Agreement on Trade in Goods, will be a springboard for rapid expansion in our economic relations," Singh said, adding "the promising initiatives for cooperation in diverse sectors will add additional depth and range to our cooperation".

At the same time, he invited investments from the 10-nation ASEAN into India.

"India's large markets and rapid growth offer enormous opportunities for investments. We are taking a series of steps to further improve investment environment and accelerate growth. We look forward to increased ASEAN investments into India," the Prime Minister said.

He said India would offer its own resources, expertise and experience to support growth and development in ASEAN countries, where such needs exist.

Expressing happiness over increased presence of Indian private sector in the region, he said, "I would also like to stress the importance of creating an environment that makes it easier for our professionals, entrepreneurs, students and tourists to travel between India and ASEAN countries".

Noting that "this is a time of challenges in the region, but also of immense opportunities to shape its future", Singh said, "I am convinced that India and ASEAN can play an important and constructive role in building the regional architecture".

He referred to the East Asia Summit taking place here tomorrow and said it would launch negotiations for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
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