Dec Asean-India trade set to exceed $122b in 3 years

Dec Asean-India trade set to exceed $122b in 3 years
Above photo is Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Imagine the traders making twice as much money or the ships carrying two times the cargo on this route.

Trade between Southeast Asia and India is set to soar in the coming decade as a long-delayed free trade pact on services and investments was finally confirmed on thursday.

From about US$80 billion today, the immediate target is for two-way trade to exceed the US$100 billion (S$122 billion)  mark in three years' time.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, laid down an even bigger challenge to Asean: Aim for the "milestone" of US$200 billion by 2022.

In a speech at the start of the Asean-India commemorative summit, he said that the key to a "closer partnership" between the two sides would be its connectivity, be it physical, institutional, people-to-people ties, by sea and air, and even in the digital world.

This was a common theme in many of the 10 Asean leaders' speeches on wednesday at the two-day summit in the Indian capital, organised to mark 20 years of formal engagement between Asean and India.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for the 10-member Asean bloc and India to strengthen cooperation in their various connectivity projects.

He shared how the landmark Asean-India car rally, which will have its ceremonial flagdown here today after 22 days criss-crossing the region, symbolised the importance of connectivity.

Mr Lee called for road connectivity projects such as the ongoing India-Myanmar- Thailand trilateral highway and the extension to Laos and Cambodia to be completed.

He also reiterated a point he made at last month's Asean Summit in Cambodia - that South-east Asia and India should kickstart talks on an Asean-India air transport agreement when possible.

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