Source: Economic Times

Noting that the India-ASEAN trade was well below potential, a top government official today said the regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) pact — expected to conclude later this year — will help boost trade to $200 billion by 2022.

“The FTA in goods has helped us but now we have signed the comprehensive FTA, which is going to conclude later on this year. Only three countries have ratified from ASEAN. We are waiting for the rest of the ratifications. We think it (conclusion of RCEP) might be towards October”.

“Our aspiration is to take ASEAN-India trade to USD 200 billion by 2022, and the RCEP negotiations, which are currently underway will also contribute to this,” Secretary East in the External Affairs Ministry Anil Wadhwa said.

The implementation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Goods was signed in 2009.

The agreement has translated into a significant increase in bilateral trade, which has risen from under USD 44 billion in 2009-10 to over USD 74 billion in 2013-14.

“The negotiations for the RCEP would be completed by this year-end. The conclusion of these agreement will go a long way in boosting bilateral trade and investments, which is currently much below the potential,” Deputy Secretary General, ASEAN Secretariat Dr AKP Mochtan said while addressing the Delhi Dialogue here.

RCEP is a proposed comprehensive free trade pact among 10 ASEAN countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and six partners with which they have free trade agreements (FTAs), including Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The pact seeks to include goods, services, investments, competition and intellectual property and is targeted to be concluded this year.

“The trade level is below our potential and we hope that the FTA in Goods, when reviewed, will lead to better efficacy and results.

“The signing of the agreements on Trade in Services and Investment last September and their expected entry into force later this year will give a much-needed boost to our economic engagement. It will hopefully also rectify the trade and investment balance, which is currently somewhat in favour of ASEAN,” Wadhwa said.

Asked about India’s expectations from the discussions with ASEAN countries in the Delhi Dialogue, Wadhwa said: “There are 2 or 3 main outcomes that we expect. We want to see some proposal about future direction and trade between India and ASEAN countries.”

“We also want to hear something about the services and investment agreement and how both sides can take advantage of that. We want to put this in our vision document 2016-21, which we are drawing up with ASEAN and which is in the final stages,” he said.