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Asean a central pillar: Gogoi

Guwahati, Dec. 6: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today underlined the strategic importance of Asean and termed it “central” to the security and economic architecture in the Northeast.

“Asean has emerged as a central pillar of India’s ‘Look East Policy’, which has paid rich dividends to both sides. India’s vision of a close relationship with Asean is to forge a vast ‘arc of prosperity’ across Asia,” he said while addressing the inaugural session of the multi-sectoral business seminar on Potential Opportunities for Boosting Indo-Vietnam Trade and Investment at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, CMO sources here said.

“The launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations between Asean and its six free-trade partners, including India, will culminate in the formation of the largest free trade zone that will bring benefits, peace and prosperity to the people of our region,” he said.

“India and Asean economies have withstood the global economic crisis relatively well. Our combined GDP of US$ 3 trillion and population of 1.8 billion with a huge and young workforce constitute a formidable comparative advantage. India-Asean bilateral trade has grown by over 10 times in the past decade, and stands at nearly US$ 80 billion today,” Gogoi said.

The chief minister said the Asean-India Free Trade Agreement in Goods, already in force, was contributing to the increased trade between India and Asean.

“India and Vietnam share close and traditional ties, which have their roots in the personal friendship between our founding fathers Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh,” Gogoi said.

“Vietnam is an attractive investment destination and I would urge Indian companies to tap the growing market in the country as well as to use it as a platform to enter other markets in the region,” he added.

The chief minister said Assam shared a strong cultural and linguistic affinity with Asean countries in the form of the Tai-Ahom legacy.

“Assam has a unique advantage of being situated close to Myanmar, which is the gateway to Asean. The border points at Moreh, Suterkandi, Mancachar and Dawki have been opened for bilateral trade. Besides, the slew of investment incentives offered by the government makes Assam a very attractive investment destination,” he added.

Gogoi also pointed out bamboo, rubber, medicinal plants, pisciculture and food processing as potential areas of investment.

The chief minister stressed the need for direct flights from Asean nations to LGB International Airport in Guwahati to enhance volume of trade, commerce, investment as well as tourism, not only in Assam but in the entire northeastern region.

He also urged the Asean countries, having their consular offices in Calcutta, to extend their visa offices to Guwahati to facilitate greater people-to-people contact as well as business.

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