India and the 10-nation ASEAN are likely to sign the long-delayed free trade agreement in services and investments later this month when their economic and trade ministers meet here.
Foreign Ministers of all ASEAN countries as well External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have hoped that the pact will be finally signed during the four-day-long meeting of Economic Trade Ministers of India and ASEAN beginning August 25.
Seeking better ties with India, the grouping after the India-ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting, here said it was looking forward to signing of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement in services and investment later this month.
In her address at the meeting, Swaraj had also hoped that the free trade agreement with ASEAN will be signed soon which will spur trade ties between the two sides. The Indian government has already approved the pact in December last year.
"We are hopeful of signing the FTA in trade and services with ASEAN later this month," said an Indian official.
The agreement will boost movement of Indian professionals in the ASEAN region besides facilitating investments.
The India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement was signed in August 2009 and it had come into force in 2010. The ASEAN noted that the total two way trade between ASEAN and India grew by 5.3% in the past years and called for further encouragement and promotion of business-to- business contact to achieve greater trade and investment.
The bilateral trade between India and ASEAN grew by 4.6% from USD 68.4 billion in 2011 to USD 71.6 billion in 2012.
ASEAN's exports were valued at USD 43.84 billion and imports from India amounted to USD 27.72 billion in 2012. The target has been set at USD 100 billion by 2015 for ASEAN-India trade.
The key members of ASEAN block include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. India has already implemented FTA with Singapore and Malaysia and is negotiating with Thailand.
At the end of its meeting with India, ASEAN also reiterated the need to strengthen ASEAN-India cooperation in agriculture and energy in order to ensure long term food security and energy security, especially with the use of appropriate technologies.
India received a total of Rs 10.75 lakh crore in Foreign Direct Investment in the last 14 years out of which 1.39 lakh crore had come from ASEAN grouping. Indian investment in ASEAN countries during the period was Rs 1.54 lakh crore.
There has been significant progress in ties between India and ASEAN in the last few years in diverse sectors, particularly in trade and commerce.
Outlining a roadmap to give a fresh momentum to its ties with ASEAN, External Affairs Minister yesterday had said India would soon draft a five-year plan of action starting 2016 to take the "trajectories" of common interests with grouping to a new level.