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NEWS UPDATES 27 August 2010

India-Asean may set deadline for services

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Trade ministers from India and the 10-member Asean countries currently meeting in Vietnam are to come up with deadlines to wrap up negotiations on the opening of services and investment that appear to be running late.

“There has to be some sort of practical timeline within which the negotiations have to be concluded,” Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar said.

India and the 10-member Asean have already signed a free trade agreement in goods which has been ratified and implemented by India and five Asean countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei. The remaining five countries are awaiting domestic clearances for the accord.

The agreement on services and investment will complete the bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), which was initially planned between India and the Asean when the negotiations were launched. However, Asean insisted on concluding the goods deal first on grounds that the services deal would take a longer time.

While the goods agreement was implemented on Jan. 1, 2010, both sides agreed to conclude the services and investments agreement, the Asean countries have been stalling on it and not coming up with substantial offers.

“We do not want long drawn out negotiations,” the secretary said. The minister will communicate to the Asean ministers that we want to end the negotiations quickly, he added.

India expects to gain a lot from the services agreement as there is much scope for Indian professionals to work in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia where there is a substantial English speaking population. Sectors where India wants more opening up include medicine and healthcare, education, architecture and accountancy.

Asean has, made offers in only a handful of services against about 150 services categories where offers are to be made. India–Asean trade stood at $43.5 billion in 2009-10 and is targeted to reach $70 billion by 2012.

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