North East threshold to Act East: Sitharaman

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New Delhi, Dec 12: Union Minister of State for Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman said, “India’s Look East Policy has now become very sharp focused and it is 'Act East' Policy.”

Delivering the keynote address at the 2nd India – CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) Business Conclave at Hotel Taj Palace, Sardar Patel Marg here, she said that there was a need for greater and accelerated engagement across the globe with East Asia. The Conclave was organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry, news agency The Sangai Express reported.

She stressed, “We are very keen to open up the North East part of India; open up the economy, improve its connectivity with the rest of the East and therefore look at India’s North-East as threshold to our Act East Policy.” The Minister said that “Commerce, Culture and Connectivity” were the three pillars of India’s engagement with the CLMV countries.

The Minister also stated that the Government was working on the increasing air, rail, road and sea connectivity between India and CLMV-region. There was a proposal to develop a trilateral highway connecting India, Myanmar and Thailand.

She stated that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on goods had been signed with ASEAN in 2009, and because of that and through that trade between ASEAN and India had been reaching about USD 80 billion level. “We hope by 2015 it will touch USD 100 billion and get doubled by 2022. So there is lot of work, there is a lot of scope,” she added.

The Minister further said that India-CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) trade was concentrated in only a few items and there was tremendous scope to deepen and widen the trade basket. The Minister mentioned that several sectors hold potential for trade and investment between India and the CLMV countries. These included skill development, agricultural products, manufacturing, project exports and energy among others.

The Minister said, “It is imperative that India deepens its trade and investment with the four countries. Currently, 70-80% of India-CLMV trade is centred around only a few products. I think there is a scope to expand the basket and bring in more commodities and manufactured goods into it.” She also pointed out that the Government of India had accorded high priority to economic engagements with the four countries, and was working towards establishing seamless physical connectivity with the region.

She said, “Robust physical connectivity through road, rail and sea links will enable businesses on both sides to leverage the opportunities created by the India-ASEAN FTA in Goods. The FTA in Services and Investment will come into force with effect from 1st July, 2015. Seamless connectivity will spur people-to-people contacts and tourism, create new enterprises and millions of jobs for people in the region, especially when the economic corridors along the India-CLMV road and rail lines would be fully developed,” said the Minister.

The Conclave is aimed at creating and providing a platform for decision makers from CLMV countries to meet, at one place with a range of Indian companies involved in trading, manufacturing, processing, engineering, consultancy, construction and supply of project goods.

The target sectors discussed in the Conclave were agriculture, food processing, agricultural machinery & equipment, chemicals and fertilizers, textiles and garments, automobiles and auto components, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, gems and jewelry, iron & steel, machinery and equipment, mining and mining equipment, energy including oil and gas, hydroelectricity and renewable energy, infrastructure (road, railways, ports, airports, waterways), water and irrigation system, information & communication technology, turnkey projects, finance and banking, healthcare, tourism and education.

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