New Delhi. Trade between India, the world’s second-most populous country, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is targeted to double by 2022 from an estimate of $100 billion this year, as an economic partnership pact is expected to be signed later this year, an Indian government official said on Wednesday.
Anil Wadhwa, the secretary for the East at India's External Affairs Ministry, said the implementation of the Asean-India free trade agreement in goods that was signed in 2009, has already resulted in a significant increase in trade between the two economies: to over $74 billion in 2013-14 from $44 billion in 2009-10.
This year, the figure is expected to rise to $100 billion.
Asean — Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia — was India’s fourth-largest trade partner last year.
"The trade level is well below our true potential and we hope that the FTA in goods, when reviewed, will lead to better efficacy and results,” Wadhwa said at the start of the business session of the Delhi Dialogue VII, an annual gathering of government officials, company executives and academics from India and Asean nations.
The conference discusses ways to boost economic ties and strengthen political connections and civil society interaction between those involved.
"Our aspiration is to take Asean-India trade to $200 billion by 2022, and the RCEP [regional comprehensive economic partnership] negotiations, which are currently underway, will also contribute to this," Wadhwa said.
Combined population of 1.8 billion
The RCEP talks are about a comprehensive free trade pact between India and the members of Asean. Trade of goods, services flow, investment, competition as well as intellectual property rights are all on the agenda. Officials have said they want to conclude the pact later this year.
Asean and India represent a combined population of 1.8 billion, which is a quarter of the world’s population. Their combined $3.8 trillion gross domestic product would create one of the largest economic regions in the world. India’s economy contributes $2 trillion and the Asean member countries make up the rest. Indonesia is the largest economy of Southeast Asia.
At the conference, Sushma Swaraj, India's external affairs minister, said investment flows “are also substantial both ways.”
She said Asean accounted for about 12.5 percent of investment flows into India since 2000. On the other hand, Swaraj said "FDI [foreign direct investment] outflows from India to Asean countries over the last seven years were over $31 billion."
“Asean companies could look for investment in a large number of sectors [in India], such as smart cities, roads and highways, ports, railways, power and urban infrastructure [in India],” the minister said.
A special Indonesian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir, is in India to introduce the nation's new foreign policy doctrine, called “maritime fulcrum.”
Indonesia is located strategically between Indian Ocean powers such as India and Pacific powers like the United States and China. This doctrine of President Joko Widodo's administration seeks to leverage Indonesia’s maritime power with regard to trade, infrastructure and security.
"The Indian counterparts appreciated the concept, they will come with some proposals on how they can contribute,” the deputy foreign minister told GlobeAsia on the sidelines of the conference.
He also unveiled that he would deliver an official invitation for India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to attend the Asian-African Conference in Jakarta and Bandung next month.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the famed 1955 Bandung Conference.
”I have delivered it [the invitation] through the external affairs minister. We really hope the Indian prime minister will be able to attend,” Fachir said, adding that India was one of the key sponsor countries of the 1955 conference, along with Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the architect of the Non-Aligned Movement, for which the Bandung Conference was an important stepping stone.
GlobeAsia was invited to New Delhi by India's External Affairs Ministry.