- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

SINGAPORE, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Singapore and India have agreed to launch negotiations for a free trade agreement by April, the press secretary for Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced Tuesday.

The countries also agreed to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism.

India Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and Goh expressed satisfaction that the study group on a free trade agreement, known as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, was "proceeding well."

"They agreed to launch negotiations for such an agreement by April 2003 during Prime Minister Goh's planned visit to India," the official said. Singapore has been very active negotiating the agreement. It just concluded FTA negotiations with the United States and has already signed similar deals with Japan and New Zealand.

Advani pointed to the existing strong economic links between the countries. "The Electronics City in Bangalore, build by Singapore, is a shining example of your contribution to the development of IT in India," he said. Singapore Telecom is one of the largest investors in Bharti, one of India's leading telecom companies.

"We should now explore new areas of economic cooperation in tourism, bio-technology and joint development of our special economic zones," he added.

Advani also said India was seeking greater partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"India is convinced that unless we are able to jointly work together, we will not be able to remove underdevelopment from our midst, we will not be able to give better livelihood to our people, we will not even be able to secure sustainability of the development already achieved,'' Advani said in a lecture organized by the Institute of South East Asian Studies.

Advani pointed that India's traditional policy of friendship and cooperation with the region had sought closer ties of political, economic and technological engagements.

''We attach importance to enhancing our close economic cooperation and to work toward India-AFTA linkage,'' he said, referring to the ASEAN free trade agreement.




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