India to join talks for mega trade pact with 16 nations

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Partnership will form the world’s largest economic group

East Asian nations on Tuesday will launch negotiations for the ambitious Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a mega trade agreement comprising 16 countries of the region, including India.

India will be associated with the major economic bloc with an aim to boost its engagement with the countries of the region. “Tomorrow, we will participate in the seventh East Asia Summit and launch the RCEP negotiations,” prime minister Manmohan Singh said in Phnom Penh on Monday while addressing the India-Asean Summit.

He stated this as he invited greater investments from the South and East Asian nations, emphasising that enhanced cooperation will be crucial for stability and prosperity of the region.

Sanjay Singh, secretary (East) in external affairs ministry, later said India will be involved in the RCEP, an initiative of Asean and its six dialogue partners.

The initiative involving the 10 Asean members and its partners that includes Australia, China, Japan, South Korea New Zealand and India proposes an economic partnership which will form the world’s largest economic bloc.

The trade ministers of EAS countries will be meeting shortly to take the initiative forward. Singapore was quick to welcome India’s participation in RCEP.

At the Asean Summit, Singh said India attaches the highest priority to Asean integration and believes in Asean’s centrality.

The Asean leaders said India and members of the 10-nation grouping should share and build progress, utilising their strengths.

Manmohan Singh also announced that India is ready to conclude the much- delayed Free Trade Agreement in services and investment with Asean by next month that will provide a springboard for rapid expansion in ties, as he invited investments from the 10-nation grouping citing enormous opportunities.

Contending that enhanced cooperation between India and Asean was crucial for promotion of peace in the region and addressing shared challenges, he said the agreement in services and investment with Asean will send a strong signal of deepening economic engagement.

Singh added India’s relationship with the 10-nation grouping continues to grow in all dimensions, with commerce and connectivity being vital areas of this relationship in which good progress has been made.

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