At first glance, it might seem like a group of still-developing countries, but, as a whole, ASEAN is a powerhouse. If it were a country, ASEAN would be the world’s fifth-largest economy. According to the latest International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook figures, ASEAN countries’ gross domestic products combined to $2.73 trillion in 2017, putting the group ahead of the United Kingdom’s 2.63 trillion and India’s $2.61 trillion.
ASEAN is set to grow even more quickly, as some countries like Vietnam and the Philippines boast huge growth rates. Last year, Focus Economics estimated that ASEAN’s growth had reached a five-year high of 5.2 percent.
Part of that fast growth is because of ASEAN’s demographics: It has the world’s third-largest labor force of more than 600 million people. That’s behind China and India, but ahead of the European Union and the United States.
Strengthening India-ASEAN Economic Partnership
Together ASEAN and India have a combined GDP of over $ 5 tn and constitute two of the fastest growing regions on the planet. Everyone realises the importance which India attaches to trade, investment and business partnership with our counterparts in the ASEAN region. India and ASEAN currently have bilateral trade of $ 79 bn in 2017-18, as compared to $ 69 bn last year, an increase of 15%.
Considering the geographical proximity of India with the ASEAN countries, it is very important that we strengthen our economic linkages, and it is in this backdrop that trade and investment can play an instrumental role in furthering our ties.
The initiatives of the Government of India aim at greater economic engagements with different regions of the world and in that ASEAN region has assumed a special role as part of India’s Act East policy, since we have had historical, cultural, religious, linguistic and economic linkages.
The policy puts emphasis on connectivity projects, people-to-people exchanges, space cooperation, science and technology, etc. which have the potential for increasing regional integration and prosperity. The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 identifies economic cooperation as one of the key pillars of association. Several connectivity projects that India has undertaken in alliance with ASEAN countries are also aimed at improving trade ties with the Southeast Asian region.