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India, Singapore sign economic pact

Thursday 30 June 2005

Diplomatic Correspondent

Comprehensive accord to boost trade in goods and services; mutual legal assistance treaty too

Agreement on investments and cooperation in customs, science and technology, e-commerce, etc Singapore is our gateway to Southeast Asia and East Asia and this is truly a historic moment, says Manmohan

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Photo: V.V. Krishnan
A STEP AHEAD: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receiving his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI: India and Singapore on Wednesday took a giant step forward in expanding trade relations by signing a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). Signing the accord, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, said it would boost ties between the nations.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the two leaders discussed bilateral and regional issues at Hyderabad House here. The Prime Minister thanked Mr. Lee for Singapore’s support for India’s participation in the East Asia summit at year-end. Dr. Singh, however, stressed that the summit should not be confined to economic issues and should be extended to all areas of concern to Asian nations.

Approved by the Cabinet on June 20, the CECA is an integrated package comprising trade in goods and services, agreement on investments, mutual recognition agreement in services and cooperation agreements in customs, science and technology, education, e-commerce, intellectual property and the media.

Speaking to presspersons, Dr. Singh said the "agreement will widen and deepen our relations. Singapore is our gateway to Southeast Asia and East Asia and this is truly a historic moment."

Mr. Lee, on his first visit to India as Prime Minister, said both the economic agreement and the mutual legal assistance treaty, also signed on Wednesday, "will make for very, very good relations."

"I am happy that our relations are broad and deep. And [they] will grow broader and deeper with the CECA we are signing today," Mr. Lee said after the ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The India-Singapore Joint Study Group (JSG), set up to study the feasibility of concluding the CECA, followed discussions between the then Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Goh Chok Tong in April 2002.

During Mr. Goh’s visit in April 2003, a declaration of intent to start talks on the CECA was agreed upon after the JSG presented a report to the two Prime Ministers. It recommended that negotiations be concluded within 18 months.

Support for U.N. seat

Mr. Lee also met External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and discussed with him cooperation in defence and security.

The spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry said multilateral issues, including United Nations reforms, also figured in the talks.

"The Singapore Prime Minister, while recognising the important role that India was playing in the world and Asia in particular, supported India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council," he said.

Mr. Lee, who had a full day of meetings on Wednesday, also called on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had a separate meeting with Mr. Lee.

See online : The Hindu

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