Review of key pact with India will open new areas of cooperation: Heng

FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT
FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said a third review of a key bilateral pact between Singapore and India would open up "new areas of cooperation in trade and investment" between the two countries.

The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) signed in 2005 has been instrumental in boosting bilateral trade and investment, with bilateral trade increasing from $16.6 billion in 2005 to $25.2 billion last year.

The conclusion of the second review of Ceca, after seven years of negotiations on greater access for Indian professionals and banks in Singapore, was announced early last month during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Singapore.

"We just completed the second review of Ceca and we are embarking on a third review. So this is going to open up many new areas of cooperation in trade and investment," Mr Heng told the Singapore media last Friday at the end of his five-day visit to India.

During the trip, Mr Heng met his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal, who is also in charge of coal and railways, Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu, as well as Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

Mr Heng called his discussions with the Indian ministers "fruitful" and said ties between the two countries are "longstanding and deep".

MOVING TO A HIGHER LEVEL

We must stay very focused and look for areas where India and Singapore can complement one another and build on the momentum and make sure that we take this relationship higher.

FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT

But he added that Singapore and India must not be complacent, given the many changes in both countries and the global economy.

"So we must stay very focused and look for areas where India and Singapore can complement one another and build on the momentum and make sure that we take this relationship higher," he said.

Mr Heng named four areas where the two countries can work together - infrastructure, air connectivity, digital connectivity, and trade and investment.

On air connectivity, he said Singapore can be a good base to help India develop air links with the region and the world.

"So I hope that as India reveals its air connectivity plans, Singapore will be a major part of this story and that we can enhance our bilateral air services agreement in a significant way," said Mr Heng.

There are 484 weekly flights between Singapore and India, with over four million passengers travelling between the two countries last year.

Mr Heng also hoped for stronger economic relations between Asean and India, and among China, Japan, South Korea, India and Asean, while pushing for good progress on negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement.

Following his discussions in India and earlier in Japan, China and Asean, he had come away with a feeling of optimism, said Mr Heng.

He said he was glad that even as some countries retreat from globalisation, the commitment to open rule-based global trading remains very strong among Asian countries, in particular the commitment to free and open trade, as well as to work together with one another.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Review of key pact with India will open new areas of cooperation: Heng'. Print Edition | Subscribe