Officials from India and the ten South East Asian nations will meet next month to speed up the ongoing talks for opening trade in services, an area of immense interest for Indian professionals.

The two sides aim at entering the market opening pact in the services sector by August, a Commerce Ministry official said.

“Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) officials will reach here in June and we will take our talks further,” the official said.

India and the ASEAN signed a free trade agreement (FTA) in goods in August last year and are engaged in intense negotiations to expand this pact to include services and investments.

The services sector is of key interest to India as it contributes over 55 per cent to its GDP.

The services sector has also emerged as an important area for export earnings. The country is looking at expanding trade with the ASEAN in several services, including banking, insurance, health, accountancy, architecture and engineering.

Both the sides are also in talks to recognise each other’s educational degrees. The two sides aim to increase their $ 44-billion trade to $ 50 billion by the end of 2010.

The ASEAN countries are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

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