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Connectivity and trade infrastructure key to boosting ASEAN-India relations
Oct 27, 2015

Though ASEAN-India relations is very strong currently, connectivity and trade infrastructure are the key factors that can further boost the relations, said Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India at the Roundtable on ASEAN - India: Integration for Development on 27 October, 2015 at the India Habitat Center jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Ministry of External Affairs and the ASEAN – India Centre (AIC) at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS). The exclusive session was a curtain raiser to the ASEAN-India Summit to be held during 21-23 November, 2015. 

Amb Wadhwa stated that while ASEAN emerged as a successful example of regional integration, ASEAN-India relationship has moved far ahead. The ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in Goods signed in 2009 has deepened trade. During the year 2014-15, ASEAN-India trade stood at US$76.58 billion, up from US$44 billion during the year 2009-10. India is concluding FTAs in Services and Investment. 

The Secretary (East) added that there is still huge potential to boost the economic tie. “Singapore is India’s the largest investment partner. It is good in transport, innovation, etc. Malaysia and Thailand are good in logistics and other sectors. India can collaborate with these countries,” said Amb Wadhwa. 

Amb Wadhwa cautioned that both ASEAN and India needs to fasten domestic reforms for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). More business fair, seminars and activities should be organized to engage and promote business. "Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs)” also need to be addressed. He said, “We are two years away from another historic milestone in our relationship. We will be celebrating 25 years of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations and 15 years of Summit level interaction in 2017.”   

While delivering his special address, Ambassador Shyam Saran, Chairman, RIS & AIC stated that ASEAN is important for not only economic relations but also for overall development for East Asia. He said, “We have travelled a long way. Sometimes, there has been sense of disappointments from both sides. Our expectations were too high. But important thing is to keep things in perspective.” He added that transition from “Look East” to “Act East” during 1992-2014 is not a long time. But the platform has much potential for the future.    

In answering some tough questions from the audience, Mr Ravi Capoor Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India said, “Our maximum petroleum exports go to Singapore. Our trade negotiation skills were week before but now we are good. And Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of External Affairs work very closely on these negotiations.” The Joint Secretary further added TPP – conglomeration of 12 countries which have nothing to do with geography is a reality now. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which has half of world population and controls 40% of global trade is also good for India in long run. Mr Capoor added that utilization of ASEAN FTAs in goods has only been 17% because the exporters who are mostly SMEs are not educated enough to know how to take advantage of the FTAs. 

In his special address, Mr Shreekant Somany, Chairman, CII (NR) and Chairman & Managing Director, Somany Ceramics Limited said, “ASEAN and India have the most dynamic economies of the world. Moreover, if Asia is considered to be the global growth engine, India and ASEAN are expected to lead this charge. Thus, it is a natural choice for them to step up overall relations.” He also stated that agriculture, energy, tourism and investment are among many areas they can collaborate. 

Mr Somany further stated that CII has been actively working to strengthen relations with Southeast Asia. CII has established ties with 34 institutional partners in the ASEAN region to further bilateral and multilateral cooperation. CII also provides key support to forums like the India-Myanmar Joint Trade & Investment Forum. The ASEAN-India Car Rally is another key initiative of CII in 2012 aimed to strengthen people-to-people contacts and business engagements. 

The Secretary (East) released the ASEAN-India Development and Cooperation Report 2015 which highlighted the challenges and opportunities to strengthen ASEAN-India relations and how to exploit them. 

New Delhi
27th October 2015

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