KAMAL NATH URGES CLOSER LINKS WITH ASIA AS INDIA SEEKS SECOND COMING FOR ITS MANUFACTURING SECTOR CII NATIONAL CONFERENCE AND AGM
Date : 19 Apr 2006
Location : New Delhi
Shri Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, today said that India must necessarily develop closer linkages with Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, China, Singapore and Korea, as it seeks a second coming for its manufacturing sector.
Addressing the National Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here today, he cited the following to flag the point that “India is on the right track”: (a) Since 1991, India’s trade with the 10 largest Asian trade partners had grown at paces ranging from four-fold growth to sixteen-fold. Already, the Asian region accounts for 45 percent of India’s external trade; (b) The growth in India’s trade was the fastest with China and ASEAN as compared to any other region. India’s bilateral trade with ASEAN grew from 4 billion dollars a decade ago to 20 billion dollars last year, and with China, from 1 billion dollars to 15 billion dollars during the same period; and (c) A recent IMF study showed that India today trades more with East and South East Asia than it does with the rest of the world.
Mooting the idea of an Asian Economic Community, Shri Kamal Nath said: “Integration is a process that is being driven today by the technological revolution that shrinks distances, and by globalization. It is only inevitable that we seek to take the existing relationships to a higher level, where we envision an Asian Economic Community, which encompasses ASEAN, China, Japan, Korea and India. One cannot but be captivated by the vision of an integrated market, spanning the distance from the Himalayas to the Pacific Ocean, linked by efficient road, rail, air and shipping services. Such a community would be roughly the size of the European Union in terms of income, and bigger than NAFTA in terms of trade. It would account for half the world’s population, and it would hold foreign exchange reserves exceeding those of the EU and NAFTA put together. This is an idea whose time is fast approaching, and we must be prepared for it collectively”.
The Minister said that India’s Look East Policy had opened up new windows of opportunities, adding said that India was negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN, after having been a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN since 1992 and a full dialogue partner since 1995. “We already have a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Singapore in place, and an FTA with Thailand nearing completion. We have begun exploratory talks with China and Korea, and are active in BIMSTEC. SAFTA is now a reality. We feel that these free trade agreements, will give us business and economic leverage on the world trading platform as well at the WTO”, he said.