Source: Economic Times

The two-way trade between India and Asean are expected to double from the current level of $ 80 billion by 2022 even as it is expected to touch $ 100 billion by next year on account of increasing commercial engagement between the two sides.

“In 2009, FTA in goods was signed with ASEAN and because of that and through that trade between India and ASEAN have been reaching about $ 80 billion level. We hope by 2015 it will touch $ 100 billion and get doubled by 2022. So there is lot of scope,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said.

She was speaking at 2nd India-CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) Business Conclave here. These countries are members of the 10-nation bloc Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).

The minister said that free trade agreement (FTA) in services and investments with the region would come into effect from July 1, 2015.

She also said that a lot of business opportunities exist in the region and both the sides can enhance cooperation in areas including agriculture, skill development, energy and textiles.

Speaking about the CLMV region, she said that Laos provides huge opportunities for Indian businesses in hydro-power generation.

Laos has 26,000 MW hydro-power capacity but the installed capacity is only 7,000 MW.

Sitharaman said that north-eastern states of India is keen to enhance economic ties with CLMV region.

“We are very keen to open north-east part of India to increase connectivity with this region. We are looking at north-east as a threshold tool for our Act East Policy… India’s Look East Policy (LEP) is a major pillar of foreign affairs. Now our attempt to sharp focus the LEP and (make it) and Act East policy,” she added.

She also said that India is working on the increasing air, rail, road and sea connectivity between India and CLMV region.

There is a proposal to develop a trilateral highway connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand.

However, the minister also raised concerns about pepper imports from Asean members to India.
“Kerala has expressed a lot of concerns about pepper which comes into the country from Vietnam which they are willing to accept but if there are pepper coming from countries which do not grow pepper at all. They (Kerala producers) are worried as to where this pepper comes from…

“And these are issues which can rankle and therefore in engaging particularly with CLMV, I would certainly want greater trust and confidence in talking about not just manufactured goods but also about agri products in which some states in India always have the lead advantage,” she said.

During the signing of India-Asean free trade pact, farmer organisations had raised concerns on the matter. According to reports, the import of cheap and inferior pepper had impacted domestic prices and led to distress for farmers growing pepper.