Singapore, Dec 20 (IANS) India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have largely resolved their differences and are close to striking an upgraded free trade agreement, a media report Thursday quoted Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang as saying.
The parties involved have achieved "important breakthroughs" in the negotiations on investment and service trade, and the conclusion of the talks is expected to be announced soon by the leaders attending the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi, Xinhua reported, citing Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.
The free trade talks between India and the Asean began more than 10 years ago, but the free trade agreement in place now covers only the trade of goods.
The enhanced free trade deal would cover investment and services trade, too, the newspaper said.
Lim said the enhanced free trade agreement will benefit Singaporean firms greatly.
Singapore and India signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2005.
Singapore is now India's eighth largest trading partner, while India is its 10th largest trading partner.
Lim highlighted three key areas of potentials for Singaporean firms to explore in the Indian market, such as urban planning, middle class-related consumer products and logistics.
India's ongoing urbanization process could mean great opportunities for Singaporean firms as the country needs infrastructure to meet the demand of the growing population living in cities, he said.
The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.