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Aspiring RCEP countries urged to overcome outstanding issues with India

Teo sees more potential from AIFTA


Teo sees more potential from AIFTA




Fifteen aspiring Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) member countries have been urged to overcome outstanding issues with India and get the large South Asian market into the mutli-lateral free trade pact.

The call was made by Singapore’s Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, on 16 Nov 2019 who said: “We hope that India and the other 15 countries can overcome the outstanding issues so that India can come on board eventually. We look forward to the region, including India, moving ahead together as one.”

India remains concern that the China-dominated RCEP would be disadvantage to its farmers and MSMEs. The country has highlighted that Indian MSMEs and farmers will be disadvantaged in the RCEP through which China would likely dominate major industries and Australia and New Zealand would have a lead in farm products.

The RCEP is to group China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and 10 member countries of the ASEAN while India is the sole South Asian market with a large consumer base as well as growing investment opportunities with export options.

India has stayed out of the RCEP while the rest 15 aspiring RCEP member countries said they were ready to ink the multi-trillion-dollar pact during early November 2019 Asean meeting in Bangkok.

Addressing the fourth edition of South Asian Diaspora Convention, the Singapore Senior Minister elaborated “We already have the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), which came into effect in 2010. But there is more potential.”

Teo further added that India and Singapore are also exploring linking “our national single window platforms to facilitate cross-border exchange of trade information digitally”.

He cited South Asia-Singapore progress citing the example of India’s RuPay and Singapore’s NETS, a tie-up launched last year to facilitate cross-border payments.

Among other cooperation between the two countries, Teo noted Singapore’s Sembcorp Marine Rigs and Floaters having recently collaborated with Shapoorji Pallonji of India and Malaysia’s Bumi Armada to convert a very large crude carrier (VLCC) into a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit.

To be deployed on the east coast of India, the project will produce up to 90,000 barrels of oil per day and help meet India’s significant energy needs.

Listing these examples for furthering South Asian-Singapore ties, Teo called for further strengthening of connectivity. One key area is infrastructure, which provides the sinews for development and growth – power, water, sanitation, telecommunications, roads, railways, ports and airports, he said.

“Given the high cost of infrastructure projects, it is often not possible for South Asian governments to finance these projects on their own. Governments could access capital from the private sector and multilateral institutions to plug the gap.”

He offered Singapore’s Infrastructure Asia, an open platform to better connect the demand and supply side for infrastructure projects in Asia.

“We welcome South Asian countries and the diaspora to tap on Infrastructure Asia, to connect with best-in class partners with the right resources and expertise to collaborate on infrastructure projects in South Asia.

Another initiative that Infrastructure Asia will be working on is a capacity building programme with the World Bank Group to strengthen capabilities of infrastructure project structuring, financing and implementation, to better attract international financing and innovation into infrastructure, he told the convention, organized by the Institute of South Asian Studies, a think tank at the National University of Singapore.

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