Singapore Urges Deeper ASEAN-India Relations

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Aug. 2 – Earlier this week, at the inaugural lecture of the ASEAN-India Centre in New Delhi, Singapore’s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam pushed for a deeper relationship between ASEAN and India so as to further expand tourism and business opportunities between the two regions.

Specifically, in addition to the services and investment free trade agreement (FTA) that India and ASEAN plan to conclude later this month, Singapore is urging India to begin negotiations on an air transport agreement with ASEAN. This agreement would further enhance each respective region’s tourism industry, especially between India and Singapore.

The air transport agreement with ASEAN would also liberalize air cargo services and increase air travel seating capacity on flights between the two countries by approximately 10 percent. This would push the total number of carrier passenger seats Indian air carriers can accommodate to 29,400. Conversely, the number of seats Singapore-based carriers can accommodate to India would be pushed to 28,700 per week.

“Nearly 700,000 Indians visit Singapore [annually] and a significant number of Singaporeans also visit India. I’m told there are 400 flights a [week], and that’s not enough. We’re seeking to do more,” noted Minister Shanmugan.

According to The High Commission of India in Singapore, there are actually a total of 422 flights travelling between Singapore and India per week. This past year, a total of 3.06 million passengers travelled between the two countries.

Mr Shanmugam also pushed for India’s participation in the Regional Economic Cooperation Partnership (RECP) during the lecture, noting that “if India is part of [the RCEP], it is to India’s benefit and it will entrench India’s strategic participation.”

The RCEP is a partnership initiative that would link all 10 ASEAN member states to not just all of its respective FTA partners, but also Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. The 16 nation group – which would account for over 40 percent of worldwide trade – would house over 3 billion people and also have a combined GDP of about US$17 trillion.

Since 2011, trade between India and ASEAN has increased by over 40 percent following the conclusion of the India-ASEAN FTA on goods. The signing of the services and investment FTA is expected to further push India-ASEAN trade to upwards of US$100 billion from its current total of US$80 billion by 2015.

Singapore is India’s second largest purveyor of foreign direct investment (FDI), having contributed US$20.75 billion (or 10.6 percent) of India’s total FDI this past year.

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