Full implementation of the free trade agreement (FTA) in goods between India and the Asean bloc will help boost trade between the two regions, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry C R Chaudhary said today.
He said however that connectivity and infrastructure are major challenges to further push the trade ties between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).
India and the 10-nation bloc signed the FTA in goods in 2009. Under the pact, two trading partners set timelines for eliminating duties on maximum number of goods traded between the two regions.
The 10 Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam.
The agreement has resulted in increase in trade, and "once the full implementation of tariff (or basic customs duties) reduction scheduling is done", it is expected to create more trade opportunities for both the sides, he said at the Asean-India Business and Investment Meet and Expo being held here.
Chaudhary said both the regions are working to improve connectivity and infrastructure to promote trade and investments.
"India is working with Asean on multiple connectivity projects," he said, adding that the country has made considerable progress in the construction of trilateral highway -- India-Myanmar-Thailand.
This highway begins from Moreh in Manipur and ends in Bangkok, going through Myanmar. There are talks to extend the project to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP) is also under implementation. The project aims to improve connectivity between Indian ports on the eastern seaboard and Sittwe port in Myanmar.
These projects would also help develop the north eastern states of India, Chaudhary said.
He also said that the Asean India maritime transport cooperation agreement will help in enhancing cooperation and communication between the two regions besides removing barriers for increasing maritime trade.
There is also a proposal to establish rail link between India and Vietnam.
India's exports to Asean increased to about USD 31 billion in 2016-17 from USD 25.15 billion in the previous fiscal. Imports too grew to USD 40.61 billion in 2016-17 from USD 40 billion in the previous year.
The commerce ministry said in a statement that the Asean -India expo is showcasing products and services in areas including manufacturing, engineering, ICT, healthcare, tourism, environment, agriculture, Science & technology, logistics and retail.
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