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November 30, -0001

Since its beginning about a decade ago, the partnership between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam has been developing at quite a fast pace.

India became a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992. Mutual interest led ASEAN to invite India to become its full dialogue partner during the fifth ASEAN summit in Bangkok in 1995. India also became a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in 1996. India and ASEAN have been holding summit level meetings on an annual basis since 2002.

India signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN members in October 2009 in Thailand.

Under the ASEAN-India FTA, the ASEAN member countries and India will lift import tariffs on more than 80 per cent of traded products between 2013 and 2016.

Also, tariffs on sensitive goods will be reduced to 5 per cent in 2016, while tariffs will be maintained on up to 489 items of very sensitive products.

India and ASEAN are currently negotiating Agreements on Trade in Services and Investment. The services negotiations are taking place on a request-offer basis, wherein both sides make requests for the openings they seek and offers are made by the receiving country based on the requests. There are four meetings scheduled between January and July and the deal is expected to be finalised by August 2010.

India has made requests in a number of areas including teaching, nursing, architecture, chartered accountancy and medicine as it has a large number of English speaking professionals in these areas who can gain from job opportunities in the ASEAN region. India is also keen on expanding its telecom, IT, tourism and banking network in the ASEAN countries.

Trade

The deepening of ties between India and ASEAN is reflected in the continued buoyancy in the trade figures. The trade grew by 13 per cent during April-September 2007-08 to US$ 17.02 billion as against US$ 15.06 billion during the same period in 2006-07. ASEAN is India’s fourth-largest trading partner after the EU, US and China. Indo-ASEAN trade, which has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27 per cent since 2000, stood at US$ 38.37 billion in 2007-08. The bilateral trade between India and the ten-member ASEAN now stands at US$ 48 billion annually.

Singapore

The growing bilateral economic relationship is reflected in the rapidly rising bilateral trade between Singapore and India. The cumulative FDI inflow to India from Singapore during April 2000-April 2009 was around US$ 7.9 billion. Singapore continues to be the single largest investor in India amongst the ASEAN countries with FDI inflows into India and the second largest amongst all countries, rising to US$ 3.45 billion in 2008-09. FDI inflows from Singapore between April-July 2009 stood at US$ 759 million, taking the cumulative inflows from April 2000 - July 2009 to US$ 8.57 billion.

The total bilateral trade during 2007-08 was US$ 15.49 billion and India exported goods worth US$ 6.6 billion in April-December 2008-09.

ICICI Bank is all set to become the second Indian financial institution to get a full-fledged banking licence in Singapore, which will allow it to set up branches, ATMs, take deposits and disburse loans like a local bank. State Bank of India is already a fully recognized bank in Singapore.


Malaysia

The bilateral economic relationship between India and Malaysia has been steadily moving ahead. Malaysia has been a huge source of FDI for India. In fact, Malaysia is the twenty-fourth largest overall investor and second largest investor among ASEAN countries with a total inflow of US$ 233.74 million during April 2000-July2009.

Bilateral trade among the two countries amounted to US$ 10.5 billion during 2008-09. During the same period, US$3 8.7 million worth of Malaysian investments in India were primarily in sectors like construction, real estate and business services.

India is the ninth-biggest investor in Malaysia. However, there is huge potential for collaboration in the automotive, ICT, pharma and biotechnology, machinery and supporting engineering industries and services sectors like education and tourism.

Myanmar

During the period April-December 2008-09, India exported goods worth US$ 173.28 million to Myanmar comprising mainly of iron and steel and pharmaceuticals. FDI inflows from Myanmar into India totalled to US$ 8.96 million during April 2000-July 2009. Bilateral trade stood at US$ 995.37 million during 2007-08.

In April 2008, India and Myanmar signed the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, which will enable both nations to prevent tax evasion and ensure that business profits are taxed only in the country where the company has a permanent establishment.

Indonesia

During the period April-December 2008-09, India exported goods worth almost US$ 1.82 billion to Indonesia, comprising mainly of organic chemicals, mineral fuels and ships and boats. The trade target likely to be achieved by 2010 is US$ 10 billion. FDI inflows from Indonesia into India totalled to US$ 51.90 million during April 2000-July 2009.

Moreover, India and Indonesia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.

Thailand

Bilateral trade between the two countries touched US$ 4.11 billion in 2007-08, as compared to US$ 3.18 billion in 2006-07, registering a growth of 28.97 per cent. During the period April-December 2008-09, India exported goods worth almost US$ 1.44 billion to Thailand. Total FDI inflow during April 2000-July 2009 from Thailand was US$ 55.36 million. The sectors that have witnessed Thai investment are telecommunication, hotel & tourism, food processing, trading and chemicals.

With the signing of the free trade agreement (FTA) between India and ASEAN countries, Thailand is targeting US$ 10 billion bilateral trade in 2010.

Vietnam

Bilateral trade grew to US$ 1.77 billion in 2007-08 from US$ 1.14 billion in 2006-07. During the period April-December 2008-09, India exported goods worth almost US$ 1.13 billion.

Philippines

Bilateral trade between India and Philippines was worth US$ 823.69 million in 2007-08. During the period April-December 2008-09, India exported goods worth almost US$ 574.22 million to Phillipines.

Cambodia

During 2007-08, bilateral trade between the two countries stood at US$ 56.32 million in 2007-08. India exported goods worth US$ 35.94 million in April-December 2008-09, chiefly comprising pharmaceuticals, coffee, tea, spices and cotton.

Road ahead

The ASEAN countries with large populations and consumption patterns are important drivers of growth. With a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 2.3 trillion as of now, they together will create a new free trade area of 1.7 billion people and cover 11 countries.