P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: India and Singapore will “review” their “existing bilateral engagements” in the economic domain. The two-day exercise is slated to begin in New Delhi on Monday.

Progress in implementing the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will also be reviewed. The economic pact was put into effect in 2005 for “strengthening and deepening” the bilateral ties, according to Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang will chair the review in the context of a two-way trade volume of nearly S$ 24 billion in 2007. There was a 20 per cent spurt over the comparable figure for the previous year. India now ranks eleventh as Singapore’s trading partner.

While neither side has publicly spelt out the specifics of this exercise, it may evolve into an exploration of new possibilities in economic engagement, including investments, according to observers.

India and the ASEAN, which is now chaired by Singapore, have intensified their negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA).

Issues that have so far delayed an accord include the extent of liberalisation of India’s tariffs on palm oil and petroleum products, the sizes of negative and sensitive lists on both sides, and the degree of likely symmetrical gains by each of the 10 ASEAN member-countries in relation to India.