CECA — a step towards India-Asean FTA, says Singapore PM

New Delhi: The visiting prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, has said that with the signing of the comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA) pact the stage was set for strengthening India''s ties with the Asean region.

Lee said Singapore-India trade at almost $7 billion is already half of total Asean-India trade of $15 billion, and as such, his country could play "a useful role as a pathfinder for India". The CECA signed on Wednesday by the two counties was a significant step towards an India-Asean FTA and deeper engagement between India and South-east Asia,

Lee said, "We need to strengthen economic ties between India and other Asian countries, especially with South-east Asia. While South-east Asia''s trade with India is growing rapidly, it is still only 15 per cent of its trade with China," adding that the centre piece of India-Asean cooperation is an FTA which would build "a strong bridge across the two regions". The Singapore PM was speaking at a luncheon meeting hosted by India''s leading chambers of commerce and industry - CII, FICCI and Assocham here.

He said one significant new imitative in regional cooperation is the East Asian Summit (EAS) to be held in December. He said that Asean has decided that the EAS should include not just Asean plus three, but also India.