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15 May 2010

Malaysia, India agree to ink free trade deal in August

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Malaysia and India are expected to conclude talks on a comprehensive free trade agreement in August and sign the pact later in the year, AFP reported, quoting Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said Friday.

Mustapa said both sides are working for the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to be signed during a visit to Malaysia by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later this year.

"We are on target. We hope by August we can do a definite conclusion to this and by the time Manmohan Singh visits Malaysia at end of this year, this will be in place," he told the Foreign Correspondents Association in Singapore.

Mustapa, in Singapore for a business forum, said he and his Indian counterpart had been directed by their prime ministers "to make sure" that the highlight of Singh's visit would be to witness the signing of the accord.

Trade between the two countries peaked in 2008 at 10.52 billion dollars but fell to 7.06 billion dollars in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

Malaysia has said that a pact -- which will cover trade in goods and services, investment and economic cooperation -- could boost its exports to India by 12 billion dollars, by 2012.

Malaysia in October 2009 signed a free trade deal with New Zealand, and is part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China free trade accord.

Mustapa said Malaysia also hopes to negotiate free trade pacts with the European Union, Australia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Chile and Turkey.

Kuala Lumpur has also expressed eagerness to join talks for an enlarged Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement involving the United States and seven other countries.


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