India, Singapore hope to conclude trade deal review soon: Iswaran

Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran shaking hands with Maharashtra's Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra on May 16, 2018. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY

NEW DELHI - India and Singapore "should be able to conclude" a review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) soon, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran said during a two-day visit to India which concluded yesterday.

Economic ties between the countries have grown since they signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2005, with bilateral trade expanding from US$6.7 billion in 2004-05 to US$16.7 billion in 2016-17.

A review of the CECA has been taking place for over six years with India seeking greater access to Singapore for its professionals and banks.

Mr Iswaran told The Straits Times: "Our officials have been working very hard behind the scenes and I think we are optimistic that we should be be able to arrive at a conclusion soon."

He did not give further details.

Mr Iswaran chaired the inaugural Maharashtra-Singapore Joint Committee meeting on Wednesday where the two sides signed a framework agreement to facilitate Singaporean investment into Maharashtra, one of India's fastest growing states.

Separately, Singaporean consultancy firm Surbana Jurong was appointed the master planner for the Pune Metropolitan Region, and Changi Airports International will provide advisory services for the proposed new Pune Airport.

Mr Iswaran said the moves would open up "interesting opportunities" for Singapore firms, along with a collaboration in which Singapore is helping the state of Andhra Pradesh to build its own capital city of Amaravati from scratch.

He added that Singaporean firms are studying opportunities in the areas of integrated logistics and aviation in the state of Maharastra as well as looking at collaborations in developing low cost housing - a priority area for India's government.

Across the country, the Narendra Modi government is looking at upgrading urban infrastructure and is creating 100 "smart cities" with the latest urban infrastructure.

Mr Iswaran said Singapore firms had opportunities in India "but overall the smart cities initiative in India is consonant with the larger effort in Asia as a whole where there is rapid urbanisation and there is a a need to ensure cities are eminently liveable".

He added: "This is an important area where we can contribute whether to do with energy management...with urban planning, development and services."

India and Singapore share close political, defence and economic ties.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Republic from June 1 when he will deliver the keynote speech at the 2018 IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's premier defence summit.

Mr Iswaran said the visit will include a bilateral meeting between Mr Modi and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and engagements with the business community here.

Mr Iswaran said the visit would help send a "strong signal to our business community and investor community of his (Mr Modi's) priorities and his government priorities".

Yesterday Mr Iswaran met minister for road transport and highways, shipping and water resources Nitin Gadkari and commerce minister Suresh Prabhu.

Mr Iswaran said ties between India and Singapore are "strong and continuing to grow in different facets".

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