India has signed free trade agreements with Japan and Malaysia. The pacts are part of India's effort to deepen economic engagement with Asian countries.
Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma signed the economic partnership agreement with his Malaysian counterpart in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, two days after he concluded a similar deal in the Japanese capital, Tokyo.
The pacts aim to reduce or eliminate tariffs on most goods over the next ten years. They will also widen investment opportunities between India and the two East Asian nations, and liberalize trade in the services sector.
Commerce Minister Sharma says the pacts will have a defining influence in the region and help in the larger economic integration of Asia.
Over the past decade, India has sought to look beyond its traditional trading partners in Europe and the United States, and expand trade with East and South East Asia.
S.K. Mohanty at the New Delhi-based economic think tank, Research and Information Systems, says Malaysia and Japan will not just provide new markets and opportunities for India. He says they will also be a source of cheap imports for India’s one billion plus population.
"India’s domestic market is growing very fast, and domestic demand is a major contributor to our rising growth profile,” Mohanty said. “Therefore cheaper and qualitative imports from the region is also benefiting Indian economy. And at the same time we are also getting direct access to the region and are able to expand our volume of trade with the region."
The agreement with Malaysia is expected to help double trade from $8 billion at present to about $15 billion by 2015. Trade with Japan, which stands at about $10 billion, will also get a boost.
In 2009, India signed trade agreements with the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Economists say these pacts are helping India become better integrated with an economically vibrant region of 600 million people, where growth rates are higher than those in Western countries. They also come at a crucial time when Asia is emerging as an important center of global economic activity.