India is hoping to soon begin formal negotiations for a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union with a view to enhance commerce and investment between the two regions. A joint study group has submitted its report on the feasibility of a free-trade agreement with the five-member Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
The group got into every aspect of the agreement and India has already submitted its comment on that report, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said. "Their comments are awaited. The individual countries (of the EEU) will have to look at the report. The moment their comments come in, from there we can start...So a concrete major step will be to start actual negotiations...we hope to start that process," she said.
The minister also raised the issue during her recent visit to Russia, where she participated in an exhibition and held bilateral talks with her counterpart. The proposed agreement, if implemented, would give greater market access to Indian goods and services in Russia and the central Asian countries.
India is already negotiating the International North-South transport corridor project with Russia to promote bilateral trade. The project proposes greater movement across Nhava Sheva (Mumbai) through Bandar Abbas (Iran) to Astrakhan (Russia) and Baku (Azerbaijan).
Sitharaman said that this is an important project as it would facilitate smooth passage of goods and there will be a greater customs understanding between India and the EEU member countries. The corridor is important from the trade point of view as it would give lot of direct access to these central Asian countries as they are landlocked, she added.
Talking about her recent Russia visit, the minister said it was "very productive and there will be several follow ups." Russia has agreed to become the partner country for an engineering exhibition to be held in Chennai in March 2017.
She added that Russia's Rostech will form a joint venture with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to manufacture Kamov 226T military helicopters in India "This is the first India-Russia high-tech project implemented by the Indian government within the framework of Make in India programme," she said.
Vice-President Ansari reaches Mongolia for ASEM Summit
Vice President Hamid Ansari arrived here on Thursday, leading an Indian delegation to the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit being held amid dramatic changes in Europe following Britain's exit from the EU and a global economic slowdown. The two-day Summit will be held in Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia from Friday and the theme for the meeting is "20 Years of ASEM:Partnership for the Future through Connectivity".