Sign Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Friday proposed the creation of a dedicated fund for the construction of infrastructure projects in India with Malaysian collaboration.

Mr. Sharma, now in Kuala Lumpur where he joined Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed in signing the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), later told The Hindu that he also invited the participation of Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund Khazana in this endeavour.

Independently, Malaysian sources said the Indian proposal was still “an idea up in the air” and would be examined in the context of whether equity participation or debt-financing would be best suited for infrastructure projects in India. Mr. Sharma floated the idea in an interaction with Malaysian captains of industry and trade after the CECA signing at Putrajaya, the administrative capital outside Kuala Lumpur.

On the CECA, Mr. Mustapa called upon Malaysians to seize the opportunities being created by the mutually-beneficial and ambitious focus on the services sector. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, whom Mr. Sharma met along with India's High Commissioner Vijay Gokhale, commended the finalisation of the economic pact within the original timeline as set.

Malaysian leaders said the CECA was very “timely” now, given that both countries were already in the “recovery” mode after weathering global economic crisis.

Mr. Sharma, in his phone-in remarks, said Indian investments in Malaysia were also looking up, with commitments to the tune of $2.5 billion being made in just the last year in various sectors. The India-Malaysia trade target now was $15 billion by 2015. This, he said, was “a modest and realistic target.” This might even be surpassed, judging by the fact that India's two-way trade with South Korea rose by 40 per cent in the first year after the signing of their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Mr. Sharma said India's Look-East policy had now acquired a huge economic dimension following a series of agreements with several major players in this region. On the Doha Round, there were some signs now of “traction and movement” following the recent interactions at Davos among the major stake-holders including India. “We hope the text-based negotiations [for a Doha deal] will start soon,” said Mr. Sharma.

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