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India PM backs RCEP trade talks
October 9, 2013, 4:55 am

The Indian Prime Minister underlined the critical importance of ASEAN, which he described as “the cornerstone of India's “Look East” policy” in maintaining peace and security in the region  [Getty Images]

The Indian prime minister underlined the critical importance of ASEAN, which he described as “the cornerstone of India’s “Look East” policy” in maintaining peace and security in the region [Getty Images]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday left for Brunei to attend the eighth East Asian Summit and the 11th India-ASEAN Summit.

Singh expressed his support for the China-led RCEP trade talks in a statement released prior to his departure.

“India sees the East Asia Summit as a springboard to regional cooperation and integration and is participating in the negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership among the ASEAN and its FTA partners, which will help create an economic community in the region,” said Singh.

China has been pushing the RCEP trade negotiations which would include all 10 ASEAN member states and the six FTA partners, namely China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia, with the notable absence of the US.

The grouping covers about 3.3 billion people and accounts for 30 per cent of world trade. When in place, it will be the largest free trade pact in the world.

Meanwhile, during his trip the Indian prime minister would also try to accelerate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on services and investments by the end of 2013 with ASEAN.

ASEAN-India trade currently stands at $76 billion, and the two sides have set a target of $200 billion by 2022.

Singh is also expected to meet his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott on the sidelines to discuss Australia’s uranium sale to India.

A nuclear deal and negotiations on a free trade agreement are expected to figure during talks.

A formal inter-governmental agreement is also expected to be signed on the ambitious Nalanda University in the Indian state of Bihar which is a billion dollar project.

The idea of Nalanda as an international centre of learning is being revived by a group of statesmen and scholars led by the Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen.

The revival is taking place under the aegis of the East Asia Summit.

The Indian prime minister underlined the critical importance of ASEAN, which he described as “the cornerstone of India’s “Look East” policy” in maintaining peace and security in the region.

“Given our vital stakes in the region, India has been closely involved in the evolution of an open, balanced and inclusive regional architecture, on the basis of the centrality of the ASEAN,” he said on Wednesday.

The East Asia Summit integrates a market of more than three billion people with a combined GDP of $17.23 trillion.

The East Asia Summit is a forum for international cooperation among ASEAN countries and Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.

After the Summit, Singh will visit Indonesia from October 10-12 to discuss trade and security with the Indonesian leadership.

The BRICS Post

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