New Delhi: India and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc have stated their aim to increase bilateral trade to a whopping $70 billion, a boost of 40 per cent, by 2012. The assertion comes with the implementation of a free trade pact and deeper economic integration.
The ASEAN zone comprises of nearly 600 million people and this bloc of ten nations has been courted assiduously by India through its ''Look East'' policy. India itself has been a lucrative trade target for the ASEAN bloc given its status as Asia's third largest economy.
India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) "are committed to achieving a trade target of US$70 billion by 2012," up 40 per cent from $50 billion in 2010, commerce minister, Anand Sharma, said in New Delhi.
Sharma was speaking at the first India-ASEAN business fair held since the 2009 signing of the free trade pact that came into effect last year. The fair runs to 6 March.
Sharma said India and ASEAN would move beyond the free trade in goods and reach similar pacts soon on free flow of investment and services.
"This will mean a comprehensive economic partnership between India and ASEAN," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Malaysia trade minister, Mustapa Mohamed, said talks on reaching a services pact could be wrapped up by December.
Citing its projected need for $1 trillion over the next five years to upgrade its dilapidated infrastructure, Sharma said India offered a huge opportunity for investment.
Speaking on behalf of ASEAN, Malaysia's trade minister, said the free trade pact had "been integrated smoothly and I have every confidence the $70 billion (trade) target can be realised."
Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has invited ASEAN leaders to a summit in New Delhi next year to celebrate the 2st anniversary of the "Look East" initiative. It was under his watch as finance minister that the initiative had been launched as part of India's overall economic liberalisation.
The ASEAN bloc of nations is made up of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.