India-ASEAN aim to boost trade 40 per cent by 2012


India and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc aim to increase trade 40 per cent by 2012 on the back of a free trade pact and push for deeper economic integration, an New Delhi said on Wednesday. 

Asia's third-largest economy has long courted its eastern neighbours under its "Look East" policy, hoping for increased commerce and investment with the ASEAN zone of nearly 600 million people. 

India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) "are committed to achieving a trade target of $70 billion by 2012," up 40 per cent from $50 billion in 2010, Trade Minister Anand Sharma said in New Delhi. 

He was speaking at the first India-ASEAN business fair held since the 2009 signing of the free trade pact that came into effect last year. 

Sharma said India and ASEAN were working to move beyond the free trade in goods and reach similar pacts soon on free flow of investment and services. 

"This will mean a comprehensive economic partnership between India and ASEAN," he told trade ministers from ASEAN nations who attended the opening of the fair which runs to March 6. 

Malaysia Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said talks on reaching a services pact could be wrapped up by December. 

Sharma said India offered huge opportunity for investment, citing its projected need for $1 trillion over the next five years to upgrade its dilapidated ports, roads and other infrastructure. 

Malaysia's trade minister, speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said the free trade pact had "been integrated smoothly and I have every confidence the $70 billion (trade) target can be realised." 

The drive to push ties to a higher level came as India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited ASEAN leaders to a summit in New Delhi next year to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the "Look East" initiative. 

Singh was finance minister when the policy was launched as part of India's economic liberalisation. 

ASEAN, made up of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has forged free trade pacts with a number of key regional economies, including China and India. 


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