The Trade and Economic Relations Committee (TERC) headed by Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has directed the negotiators to conclude an agreement for further opening up of investment and services sector with Association of Southeast Asian Nations before the India (ASEAN) summit to be held in Cambodia from November 19.

At a meeting of the TERC, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi, it was felt that the aim should be to conclude this agreement before the India-ASEAN Summit. During the meeting, Dr. Singh, government sources said, sought an update on the progress of the talks to widen the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) beyond goods to investment and services. Services are of importance to India as they contribute over 55 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

After implementing FTA in goods in 2010, India and the 10-nation bloc are engaged in negotiations to widen the pact. Recently, Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma had also impressed upon the Government of Vietnam to work for early conclusion of this agreement. “India wants service sector to be liberalised by removal of all the non-tariff barriers,” sources remarked. The TERC also reviewed the progress of bilateral negotiations to also broadbase the India-Thailand free trade agreement (FTA), which at present is limited to 82 items.

“The meeting of the strong view point that this FTA with Thailand should also be put on fast track. Dr. Singh will be meeting his Thai counterpart on the sidelines of India-ASEAN Summit and the topic is likely to come up for discussions there,” sources added.

Further, the trade panel also discussed the progress of negotiations of the much-delayed India-European Union free traded pact. The meeting viewed that this agreement should also be expedited in order to conclude it on time.

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