NEW DELHI: Officials from India and Asean, a 10-member regional grouping of southeast Asian countries, on Monday kicked off a fresh round of talks on liberalising markets in service and investment to complement the bilateral free trade agreement on goods signed recently between the sides.
India with a booming services sector expects to gain substantially from the proposed pact, especially in terms of better market access for its professionals and more openings for its banks and insurance companies. The three days meet, which started in New Delhi, will look at all areas on services and investment that the two sides are interested in.
“We are happy that the Asean countries have come to negotiate a deal on services and investment close on the heels of completion of the agreement on goods. We hope to conclude the talks as soon as possible,” said a commerce department official.
The free trade agreement on goods will come into effect in January 2010, he said, requesting anonymity.
It may, however, take much longer than two-and-a-half months for the sides to conclude the services and investment talks as it includes a large number of sectors and categories.
In fact, the agreement on goods came after six years of negotiations. Initially, the entire comprehensive economic cooperation agreement including goods, services and investment was being negotiated together, but the latter two had to be suspended to speed up talks in goods.
In services, India is seeking access to its professionals in countries with a sizeable English speaking population such as Malaysia and Singapore to begin with. India wants to sign mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with the Asean countries for recognising qualifications in areas like medicine, nursing, architecture, accounting and teaching.
The country is also seeking more opportunities for its financial services sector, including banking and insurance, in the Asean countries.
Asean is India’s fourth largest trading partner after the EU, the US and China.
Source: Economic Times (India), "Investment, services top talks with Asean team", 11 Oct 2009, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreign-trade/Investmen...