RCEP agreement with Asean soon: Official

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New Delhi, July 5 (IANS) India is “actively engaged” in negotiations with Asean members for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, which is likely to be concluded in a few months, External Affairs Secretary (East) Preeti Saran said here on Wednesday.

She said that negotiators will meet shortly in Hyderabad and thrash out issues such as those relating to telecom, health, transport and communications in a bid to tap the potential that exists in these sectors in India and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

She said that in order to connect with the Indian diaspora in Asean nations, India is set to organise a regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore in December this year.

Addressing the inaugural session of Delhi Dialogue, organised by External Affairs Ministry in partnership with business chambers including Ficci, CII, and Assocham and Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Saran said the government accords high priority to cultural and people-to-people connect and hopes to “deepen the ties through commerce and academic exchanges”.

Saran laid stress on cross-border trade and investment between India and Asean for which the Indian government was making concerted efforts to make 106 of its rivers navigable, expediting the work on the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway project and was considering its extension to Cambodia.

She said that India has put forward proposals for establishing high capacity fibre optic network to enhance digital connectivity.

“The time is ripe to consider grid connectivity with Bangladesh and extend it to Asean nations,” she said.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between the Asean countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the six nations with which the bloc has free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).

–IANS

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