Malaysia and India signed a free trade agreement (FTA) on February 18, which is aimed at boosting bilateral trade and investment and enhancing economic ties between the two nations.

The agreement, also known as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, was sealed by Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed and his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma. It will come into force on July 1.

Compared to the trade pact that India has inked with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the FTA with Malaysia covers wider scope and sets a shorter timeline for the reduction or elimination of tariffs.

In the area of services, India and Malaysia agreed to allow equity shareholdings for each other's investors in more than 80 spheres including telecommunications, healthcare, retail and environmental services.

The FTA also contains a dedicated chapter on facilitating the temporary entry of professionals and investors from both countries. Malaysia said it is the first time it has negotiated such terms in its free trade talks.

Addressing the signing ceremony, the host country’s Minister Mustapa said through this agreement, Malaysia will gain preferential access to a market of more than 1 billion people.

For his part, Anand voiced confidence that two-way trade with Malaysia could soar to 15 billion USD by 2015, or even earlier.

According to a statement released by Malaysia 's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, bilateral trade between the two countries increased almost 11-fold to 27.3 billion ringgit (about 9.0 billion USD) in 2007 from 2.5 billion ringgit in 1994.

In 2010, India became Malaysia 's 13 th largest trading partner with exports amounting to 6.5 billion USD and imports valued at 2.4 billion USD. This year, two-way trade is forecast to hit 10 billion USD./.