Asean and India are upbeat about expanding their trade links as they grow their economic clout despite a troubled global economy.
Their new target is to achieve US$200 billion (RM814.47 billion) annual trade by 2022, having reached US$73.6 billion (RM299.76 billion) in 2017.
Indian government officials and business executives spent two busy days last week discussing with their counterparts from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) how to tap new business opportunities.
Asean and India are among the fastest-growing economies and the Southeast Asian trade bloc is expected to overtake the European Union and Japan to become the fourth-largest economy behind China, India and the US by 2030, Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry secretary-general Lokman Hakim Ali said.
"Indian businesses must recognise the opportunities presented by the fast-growing Asean region… Asean businesses must also realise the opportunities presented by India, especially now as the government of India is opening up the market and offering new opportunities to foreign investors," Lokman said at the fourth India-Asean Expo and Summit held in New Delhi from Feb 21 to 22.
While many countries, including key developed economies, are showing sluggishness, Asean's growth rate is likely to be nearly five percent this year and the Indian economy is projected to expand by 7.5 percent during the 2019-2020 financial year.
Indian junior Commerce Minister CR Chaudhary highlighted investment and technology collaboration opportunities for Asean companies in the services sector, saying the Indian government has identified 12 key areas, including medical services, tourism, information technology and hospitality, for fast growth.
E-commerce is seen as a lucrative sector in India due to high mobile phone Internet penetration and growing telecommunications network.
'E-commerce has become increasingly important'
Similarly, the Asean Economic Community 2025 blueprint (AEC 2025) focuses on transforming Southeast Asia into a more cohesive economic region.
"E-commerce has become increasingly important and offers huge opportunities. Collectively, with 642 million people and a US$2.77 trillion (RM11.28 trillion) GDP, the region is a huge market for e-commerce," Lokman said.
According to Asean secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi, digitisation will have a huge impact on how people and businesses work as the region's Internet economy is forecast to reach US$200 billion by 2025.
"Asean and India are in a good position to benefit from the new opportunity that arises from the digital economy," he said.
Lim praised stronger Asean-India private sector interaction.
About 800 business meetings took place among participants of the two-day event.
In preparing a future roadmap for India-Asean partnership, the key to success lies in the harmonisation of standards, ease of conducting business and investment, and developing digital and physical connectivity, Indian Commerce Ministry secretary Anup Wadhawan said.
Bilateral trade volume is expected to jump substantially once the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, being negotiated among Asean and six of its major trading partners, including India and China, is finalised to create the single largest free trade bloc.