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India to Deepen its Engagement and Strengthen its Ties with the Indo-ASEAN-Oceanic Region: Hardeep Puri
Aug 04, 2020

According to Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Housing and Urban Affairs; Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Civil Aviation and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Government of India, India was seeking to deepen and strengthen its ties with the Indo-ASEAN-Oceanic region (IAOR). The Minister was speaking at the Inaugural Session of the Indo ASEAN Oceanic Business Summit & Expo: Collaborating for Regional Economic Development which was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) today.

The Minister stated that digital technologies such as E-commerce, Fintech, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain etc. held the maximum promise for collaboration between India and the countries in the IAOR region. He mentioned that a review of the ASEAN – India Free Trade Agreement was still pending. Once completed, he felt that it would have the potential to double trade between India and ASEAN. In the aviation sector itself, he stated that the Government was moving ahead with the privatisation of airports and this presented a huge opportunity for countries from the IAOR region. He also mentioned that the MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) sector had also been opened up and that would also present a major opportunity for collaboration.

As far as India was concerned, the Minister stated that he had faith in Indian Industry and expected that they would bounce back to normal once a vaccine for Covid – 19 was found. He felt that India and the world should learn from the experience of the Covid – 19 pandemic to equip itself better for the next pandemic that may come our way.

In his address, H E Mr Seang Thay, Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce, Royal Government of Cambodia stated that India and Cambodia had a long history of cooperation and his government was now seeking to enter into a bilateral FTA with India. On its part, Cambodia was undertaking a series of reforms to make it a more conducive place to do business especially in terms of trade facilitation and infrastructure development. He hoped that these measures would help attract greater investment from the region into Cambodia.

H E Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Republic of Fiji stated that his country was well poised to become the next IT-BPO hub thanks to the availability of a educated workforce. He invited companies from the region to invest in that sector. The Minister highlighted that his country was highly dependent on tourism and had been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. They were now Covid – free and were slowly opening up their borders for tourism once again.

H E Y.B. Senator Datuk Lim Ban Hong, Deputy Minister, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysia called for greater cooperation between Malaysia and the region especially in sectors such as digital economy and e-commerce, connectivity, food and agriculture, adoption of new technologies such as Industry 4.0, clean energy among others.

H E U Aung Htoo, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Republic of the Union of Myanmar called for greater cooperation in the areas of agriculture and food processing and e-commerce and digitisation. He was of the view that the RCEP needed to be concluded as soon as possible and invited India to re-join the negotiation process.

H E Ceferino S. Rodolfo, Undersecretary - Industry Development and Trade Policy Group (IDTPG), Department of Trade and Industry, Philippines stated that India and Philippines could work together on areas such as transport infrastructure, heavy industry, pharmaceuticals, online education among others. He suggested that a bilateral FTA between India and the Philippines could be explored.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has changed the dimension of India's Look East policy making far more strategic. We need to look at the region as a new hub of growth integrating ASEAN and Oceanic countries with a strong focus on integrated logistics development, opening new routes and connectivity, both digital and infrastructure. I am confident that Asean countries will be drivers for economic growth.

Dr Naushad Forbes, Past President CII and Chairman, CII International Council stated that India and ASEAN have approximately the same GDP and taken together can create a very large market. Potential for collaboration existed I areas such as food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, engineering and joint infrastructure projects.

Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII stated that the COVID pandemic has highlighted the risks of have one country as a source of supply. Multiple sources of supply needed to be created to ensure smooth and disruption free trade.

Earlier, addressing a session on Regional Integration and Connectivity at the Conference, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, India's Sherpa to G20 & G7, Member of Parliament stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed the dimension of India's Look East policy making it far more strategic. We need to look at the region as a new hub of growth integrating ASEAN and Oceanic countries with a strong focus on integrated logistics development, opening new routes and connectivity, both digital and infrastructure. He was of the view that Asean countries would be drivers of economic growth in the region. He added that it was India’s endeavour to bring mutual growth and benefit in the Indo-Asean region through bilateral & multilateral partnerships with a focus on opening new routes of connectivity to increase trade.

New Delhi

4 August 2020

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