Singapore, India to undertake third review of trade pact

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing poses for a photo with economic ministers from the various Asean countries.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing poses for a photo with economic ministers from the various Asean countries. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY (MTI)

India and Singapore are embarking on the third review of the landmark Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), which focuses on trade facilitation, e-commerce and customs.

The move comes months after both countries concluded the second review of the trade pact, which will come into force in the middle of this month.

The third review was formally launched by Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran and India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu, who met yesterday morning.

Mr Iswaran said: "Ceca has opened up market access for Singapore companies in a variety of sectors, including finance, organic chemicals, plastics, as well as electrical machinery and equipment.

"Our companies also benefit from Ceca's investment protection and dispute resolution provisions, and can do business in India with greater confidence."

Last year, bilateral trade between Singapore and India amounted to $25.2 billion, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry in a statement yesterday.

It added that the focus areas of the third review are "in line with the evolving trade profile between both countries and would make it easier for our businesses to trade and invest in India".

India was Singapore's largest trading partner in South Asia last year, while Singapore was India's second-largest trading partner within Asean.

The Ceca was signed in June 2005, and took effect in August that year. It fast-tracked Singapore banks in India's phased banking liberalisation programme, accorded special tax benefits to Singapore-based companies and included an agreement on investment promotion and protection.

It also included an agreement to eliminate or substantially reduce tariffs on three-quarters of Singapore exports to India over five years.

The trade pact was first reviewed in 2007 to see if trade and investments could develop even faster, with a second review following shortly after.

Mr Aylwin Tan, chief customer solutions officer at Ascendas-Singbridge, said that having Ceca in place gives investors a lot of confidence.

The urban development and business space solutions provider has been investing in India for more than 20 years, and manages more than 1.2 million sq m of assets across India.

"It is important to have continued clarity on implementation procedures for trade agreements as well as how to strengthen the investment environment," Mr Tan said.

Yesterday morning, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing also spoke on the importance of establishing strong ties between India and Asean.

Total trade between Asean and India has increased by a quarter from US$58.4 billion (S$80 billion) in 2016 to US$73.5 billion last year, while foreign direct investment from India rose from US$1.05 billion to US$1.8 billion in the same time period.

Mr Chan, who was at the Asean Economic Ministers-India Consultations held at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, said: "Backed by growing regional consumption and infrastructure developments, both sides are well-positioned to tap each other's economic fundamentals and the region's growth opportunities."

The review of Ceca comes as India's economy expanded at the fastest pace in nine quarters, as strong domestic consumption and robust manufacturing growth outweighed any global trade war worries, Bloomberg said.

Gross domestic product grew 8.2 per cent in the three months ended June, from a year earlier, India's Statistics Ministry said in a statement in New Delhi last Friday.

The economy is expected to expand more than 7.5 per cent in the fiscal year to next March, Mr Subhash Chandra Garg, the Economic Affairs Secretary in the Finance Ministry, said in New Delhi, adding that growth was now on a steady track.

The numbers cement India's position as the world's fastest-growing major economy, outpacing China, where an intensifying trade conflict with the US has dimmed outlook.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 02, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore, India to undertake third review of trade pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe