The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM rediscovery voyage

Bangkok, July 29: The quintessential economist in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in full form on the home turf of international trade on the eve of the summit on regional economic co-operation being held here.

He talked of economic hubs, global economic powerhouses, trade bridges between regions, lending dynamism to economic co-operation and valuing economic creativity, the spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Singh not only laid out a map of what regional economic cooperation could do but also declared that his government would examine all the free trade and bilateral trade agreements entered into by the previous regime.

In his first speech on arriving in the Thai capital to attend the Bimstec (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation) summit, Singh described his visit as “a voyage of rediscovery; of getting acquainted with the vibrant economy of this region”.

Singh said that India wanted to establish strong relations with this “vital economic bloc” and hoped to work with Thailand to strengthen economic cooperation in the region. Bimstec now also includes Nepal and Bhutan.

Singh spoke like someone who not only knew where he wanted his country to head economically but was also not afraid of course correction, if he disagreed with the decisions and policies of the past. He thus declared that his government would take a “hard look” at the free trade agreements (FTAs) signed by the previous government.

About the unnecessarily long deadlines — the Bimstec FTA will be implemented fully after more than a decade in 2017 — Singh said: “This is a time frame fixed by the previous NDA government but our attempt will be to accelerate it.”

“We will have a relook at all the free trade agreements. We will approach in a realistic manner the time frame under the framework agreement for FTA among Bimstec,” he said. But he added that it would be too early to say whether there would be any change in direction of the FTAs signed by India.


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