Sharma to push for services trade deal with ASEAN

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma will push for early conclusion of the services trade deal with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc when trade ministers from the group meet at Manado in Indonesia on Thursday.

The services trade deal has been stuck over the issue of movement of professionals. India already has a free trade agreement (FTA) in goods with the bloc.

Officials in the Ministry said the deal had got stalled as a number of ASEAN members countries had expressed their concern over allowing the movement of professionals and putting in place an easier visa regime.

On the other hand, India has been demanding greater opening in the Mode IV category, so that more professionals such as doctors, nurses, chefs and accountants get greater job opportunities in the 10-member bloc that includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Mr. Sharma is likely to have bilateral meetings with his counterparts in an effort to sort out the issues that have held up conclusion of an agreement on the services deal.

Special session

The ASEAN ministers are also likely to hold a special session to debate the new economic challenges being faced by the global economies especially in light of the down grading of United States and the financial crisis that have beset the Euro Zone.

While the member nations of ASEAN are willing to relax various provisions under the services deal for India, they are not ready to offer the same to their fellow members.

India is engaged in bilateral negotiations for a comprehensive treaty with both Thailand and Indonesia, which have agreed to give more access than in the regional (ASEAN) arrangement, the official added. The services sector contributes 55 per cent of India's gross domestic product.

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