India, Malaysia keen to take bilateral trade to $15 billion

New Delhi: India and Malaysia have expressed keenness to take their bilateral trade to $15 billion in the "immediate future", with the CEO's Forum identifying infrastructure, healthcare, education and SMEs as key areas of furthering cooperation.

A joint statement of the India-Malaysia CEO's Forum issued on Saturday called for a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and its conclusion at an early date. 

The forum's meeting held on Friday coincided with the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. The Malaysian leader is on a five-day visit to India. 

The statement said that Malaysia is India's third largest trading partner in Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Bilateral trade between Malaysia was $12.8 billion in 2015-16 as against $16.9 billion in 2014-15 and the trade balance is in favour of Malaysia.

"The prime ministers have expressed their aspiration to see this trade increase to $15 billion in the immediate future," it said. 

The statement said there has been significant growth between the two nations in various sectors. "The total investments from Malaysia stood at around $7 billion or more as against total investments of around $2.5 billion from the Indian side."

At present, there are around 120 Indian companies, including 61 Indian joint ventures, seven Indian Public Sector Undertakings and 60 Indian IT companies operating in/from Malaysia.

The CEO's Forum noted that there exists knowledge deficit on the opportunities available in both countries and underscored the need for greater business to business exchanges, regular meetings of the CEO's Forum and organising trade and investment promotion events.

It said both trade and investment will benefit from RCEP, which aims to be a deep integration agreement covering trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement/legal and institutional issues, among others. 

"Therefore, the forum calls for a balanced RCEP, which will address both trade and services and be concluded at an early date." 

The statement said India offers good opportunity for Malaysian Pension and Provident Funds to invest in Indian Infrastructure assets, especially brownfield assets in various sectors like roads, aviation and power. Investments could also be made in Indian Infrastructure Funds. 

The forum noted that there has been an upsurge of Indian investments in the healthcare sector in Malaysia. 

Noting that Malaysia with 3.2 million diabetics has one of the highest diabetes prevalence rates amongst adults worldwide, the statement said experience from India will be used to work with the local communities in Malaysia to improve screening, early detection, awareness and management of diabetes. 

It said Indian and Malaysian governments must form a Joint Healthcare Taskforce to deliberate and ease processes that would permit doctors to practice in either nation after necessary licensing. 

The statement said a joint cord-blood repository between India and Malaysia for both private and public users must be considered as Cord Blood Stem Cell Therapy is a greatly preferred option for treating blood disorders. 

The forum members welcomed the move of the Government of Malaysia to invite Ayurveda and Siddha practitioners to Malaysia. 

On education, the forum members called for early signing of a MoU to recruit Indian teachers for English language education in Malaysia.

Referring to tourism, the members emphasised on the need to encourage visa-free travel for Indians and Malaysians.

It said Malaysia should support and champion the introduction of the Asean Common Visa for travellers from outside the region. 

The forum said there is a need to review the bilateral Air Services Agreement.

The two sides agreed that separate working groups would be set up on infrastructure, healthcare and education to suggest recommendations and strategies.

The statement said meetings of the CEO's Forum would be held bi-annually, alternatively in India and Malaysia.