India/Singapore Trade Deal Could Widen through Asia. (Update)

Business Asia, December 2002 | Go to article overview

India/Singapore Trade Deal Could Widen through Asia. (Update)


A free trade agreement between India and Singapore may pave the way for a broader accord between the second-most populous nation and a grouping of 10 countries in South-East Asia. An accord between the two nations could become the model for other countries in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to which India offered a free trade plan earlier last month. Singapore's Minister of Trade and Industry George Yeo said at a World Economic Forum summit on the Indian economy that the Singapore-India free trade agreement "will be a template for some of the other ASEAN nations". India and ASEAN traded US$10 billion ($17.8 billion) worth of goods last year. Zero-duty access to India's market of one billion people may benefit South-East Asian makers of computers and other machinery, which account for almost a fifth of the region's exports to India. India's electrical equipment, machinery and jewellery manufacturers stand to gain. Together, they accounted for 37 per cent of India's shipments to ASEAN last year. A study group will submit its report on the feasibility of a Singapore-India free trade agreement by March.

* China

China's economy in 2003 will probably meet or exceed this year's expected eight per cent growth because of a rebound in the global economy and trade, according to Zheng Jingping, a director at the National Bureau of Statistics. The economy of China, the world's most populous nation, needs to expand by at least seven per cent annually to create jobs for an estimated eight million people each year. Government-owned companies have fired more than 25 million workers since 1998. China's gross domestic product grew 8.1 per cent in the third quarter of this year, compared with eight per cent expansion in the second quarter.

* Philippines

The Philippine economy unexpectedly contracted for the first time in four years as manufacturing slowed and crops were damaged by drought. The nation's output of goods and services fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1 per cent in the third quarter after growing a revised 2.6 per cent in the second, says Economic Planning Secretary Dante Canlas. Canlas says the Government is sticking to its 2002 forecast of 4.4 per cent growth, after the economy expanded 4.1 per cent in the first nine months. Swelling budget deficits and debt may impair the Government's ability to keep pumping money into the economy, economists said, after public works construction surged 16 per cent in the latest quarter. Private investment growth is equally doubtful. Banks have "frozen" loans because they are concerned that slower growth in world export markets and a flood of cheap imports may impair the ability of businesses to pay debt, says Raul Concepcion, a local partner of Carrier Corp, the air conditioning unit of United Technologies Inc. "It's very hard for banks to let go of their money because of the uncertainties of the time," he said.

* Singapore

Singapore may back off from raising goods and services tax two percentage points to five per cent starting 1 January due to sluggish economic growth and soaring unemployment, which has fuelled public discontent over the move. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong says that GST, as the tax is known, may initially be raised to four per cent, and to five per cent within a year. Alternatively, the government may raise GST to five per cent as planned, and boost relief for poorer families. A decision to delay would represent a turnaround by a Government which has maintained it would raise GST to make up for revenue it's losing by paring taxes on companies and personal incomes. Higher GST would cut deeper into the pockets of four million people on the island as they cope with increased train, bus and hospital charges announced this year. The Government cut its growth forecast for the year by at least a third as demand slows in the US, the biggest buyer of Singapore exports. …

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India/Singapore Trade Deal Could Widen through Asia. (Update)
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