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India hopeful of FTA with S’pore soon

Business Line

India hopeful of FTA with S’pore soon

6 June 2005

Kolkata: The South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is expected to be signed by January 2006, while India is hopeful of a free trade agreement with Singapore very soon, said S.N. Menon, Secretary in the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Speaking at a meeting on `Indo-Asean Commercial Relation - An Era of New Beginning’, organised by the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI), on Saturday, Menon said the tariff level among the Asean countries would go down to 5 per cent within a short period. Originally, Asean had 10 member countries but now India, China, Australia, New Zealand and Korea are willing to become its permanent members.

Menon said the country was continuing intensive negotiations with the WTO but at the same time "we are looking forward for an equitable and ruled-based trade settlement at the bilateral and multilateral level."

Though India is not a full-fledged member, but a partner country in Asean, "we are expecting clear decisions on the issue of goods following the clause of value addition which at present is different in Indian and Asean aspects."

The Commerce Secretary said the trade with similar manufacturing countries would not be of much benefit but trade with dissimilar manufacturing countries could be of benefit. In fact, West Bengal and, more specifically, Kolkata would be the nodal points.

An Inland Port Authority is being formed by the Union Government to boost cross border trade with the neighbouring countries, including trade route between Sikkim and China.

Transportation by road, rail and water is being geared up.

Complimenting the Union Commerce Ministry for signing a framework agreement on Comprehensive Economic Co-operation between India and Asean, the BNCCI President, S.N. Nundy, said the Government needs to be careful in negotiating on sensitive items to gain the confidence of the domestic industry as well as strongly pursue the members of Asean to follow the rules of origin clause.

According to BNCCI, India would require about $150 billion to develop the infrastructure sector.

It was thus suggested that the Government should accord high priority to infrastructure and tourism in Indo-Asean co-operation.

Road link among India, Thailand and Myanmar will promote India’s trade with the countries in the Mekong region and beyond, said Nundy.