External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Thursday said that bilateral trade between India-ASEAN has picked up after two years of slow growth even as she batted for concluding the Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks.
While the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area is fully functional from July 2015, we are also actively engaged in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations involving ASEAN and its six FTA partners, which, when finalised, will be the largest regional trading arrangement, accounting for about 40 per cent of the world trade, Swaraj said while addressing ‘ASEAN-India Partnership’ event organised by RIS.
These remarks comes in the backdrop of India being accused to dragging its feet in the RCEP talks for not agreeing to grant zero tariffs on 92 per cent of traded goods.
The China-led RCEP is being negotiated among the 10 ASEAN members (Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar), India, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
She said there had been a growth of 8 per cent in India-ASEAN trade in 2016-17 with Indian shipments to the region has increased by almost 20 per cent.
Swaraj also said connectivity with ASEAN remains at the core of India-ASEAN ties.
We recognise that the single most important ingredient that can make a qualitative shift in our economic engagement with ASEAN is a major boost towards infrastructure and connectivity, both within India and in the North-East in particular, and with ASEAN, she added.
Swaraj said efforts are under way to enhance physical connectivity by land, air and sea.
The minister also said enhancing maritime cooperation and security has been an area of focus for both ASEAN and India.
The region faces several other forms of trans-national crime, such as terrorism; arms smuggling; human trafficking; sea piracy; money laundering; terror financing & cyber crime. ASEAN and India have consciously striven to step up cooperation on counter-terrorism, cyber security, anti-piracy and other transnational crimes through various forums, she said.
Original Source: thehindubusinessline.com
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