Trade ministers from India and the ten south-east Asian nations will meet in Vietnam later this month to speed up negotiations so that an agreement could be signed on services during the India-ASEAN summit in October.

“The two sides (India and ASEAN) are keen to liberalise the trade in services and investment. Ministers will meet on August 26 and 27 to give a fillip to the talks,” a Commerce Department official told PTI.

After signing a free trade pact in goods last August, India and ASEAN are engaged in talks to widen the agreement to include services and investments at the earliest. Indian officials had earlier indicated that the negotiations would be wrapped up by end of this month.

The official, however, admitted the pace of talks is slow as there are some differences.

“ASEAN members are not ready to liberalise services where India has interest,” he said, adding that some of them are apprehensive that India, which is the world’s second fastest growing economy, would end up dominating their markets.

During the meeting, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma is likely to press for more access for Indian professionals in the ASEAN market.

India, which has expertise in areas like finance, IT and education is eager to enter the vast services market of the south-east Asia. Similarly, the ASEAN members are eyeing India’s growing contract services area and tourism.

The services sector accounts for about 55 per cent of India’s GDP. Services export in 2009-10 was valued at USD 93.7 billion in 2009-10.

India—ASEAN aim to increase their USD 44-billion trade to USD 50 billion by the end of this fiscal.

The 8th India-ASEAN Summit is scheduled from October 29 in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) consists of Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Bruni, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Philippines.

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