A comprehensive economic partnership between India, Asean and six Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners will likely take place in 2017, an External Affairs Ministry official said here on Tuesday.
"A comprehensive economic partnership between India, Asean and six FTA partners is likely. We are hoping to complete it within this year," Joint Secretary in the MEA Anurag Bhushan said at 'Act East: India's Asean Journey' organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here.
"Once it is finalised the outcome would be a balanced and comprehensive trade agreement that would not only take care of trade and services but also investments," the official said.
Bhushan, who took over his new assignment on Monday, said the Indian-Asean trading potential was far more than what it had presently achieved.
"The Asean is the fourth largest trading partner of India while we are the seventh largest trading partner to the Asean. However, there is far more trading potential between India and the Asean than they have presently achieved," he said.
Terming the year as historic as it was the 50th anniversary of Asean's existence and 25 years of Indo-Asean connectivity, Bhushan said there would be a business and investment summit — a business fair in Thailand and an Asean-Indian conference in Kuala lumpur in 2017.
He said connectivity being a key factor in boosting partnership between the two regions, the trilateral highway between India, Myanmar and Thailand and the Kaladan multi-modal transit project were the prime focus of the Indian government.
"The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway in terms of road connectivity and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit in terms of maritime connectivity are our flagship projects for the connectivity with the Asean," he said.
Bhushan said the government would do massive infrastructural development in the northeastern states as the region is extremely important for Indo-Asean connectivity.
"The northeastern states are both the facilitators as well as the beneficiaries of our relationship with the Asean and the larger Asia Pacific regions. A strong, stable and prosperous northeast is of utmost important to us," he added.