India has lined up a series of meetings with ASEAN - a trading bloc of 10 southeast Asian nations - over the next seven months to reach a deal on opening up the services trade, after the opening up of merchandise trade.

“Negotiators will meet here from January 12-16 to take forward the talks on services trade,” a senior Commerce Ministry official said, adding that more interactions are scheduled for March, April, May and July.

So far, two rounds of negotiations have already taken place in this regard.

India signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in August, which will come into effect from January 1, 2010, and is committed to begin breaking duty barriers on goods.

The services sector contributes over 55 per cent to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“We are interested in most of the services in ASEAN, including banking and insurance,” the official said.

He said India wants more access for its professionals in ASEAN nations like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Even though the FTAs do not provide for immigration, they make it easier for the services professionals to acquire business contracts.

Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are the 10 members of ASEAN.

India has an observer status in the bloc.

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