India, GCC agree to pursue FTA

While India played an important role in food security and contribute to the healthcare of Gulf Cooperation Council, the GCC is a reliable partner in India’s energy security…reports Asian Lite News

India and Gulf Cooperation Council have agreed to pursue the Free Trade Agreement, saying that they wanted to conclude it at the earliest, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Addressing a joint press conference, the Union minister said, “We’ve agreed to pursue the Free Trade Agreement between India and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and conclude it at the earliest. GCC is already India’s largest trading partner. GCC countries contribute almost 35 per cent of India’s oil imports and 70 per cent of our gas imports.”

This joint press conference took place to mark the launch of the resumption of India-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Negotiations.

In the presser, Goyal said the GCC is India’s largest trade partner. The bilateral merchandise trade in the year 2021-2022 is valued at USD 154 billion.

Bilateral trade in services between India and GCC stood at around $14 billion. India and the GCC have complimentary business and economic ecosystems. While India played an important role in food security and contribute to the healthcare of GCC, the GCC is a reliable partner in India’s energy security.

With forward-looking and solution-oriented deliberations, bilateral engagements witnessed significant progress on all matters of mutual interest across the entire gamut of bilateral economic relations between India and the GCC nations.

Both sides agreed to expedite conclusion of the requisite legal and technical requirements for formal resumption of the FTA negotiations. The FTA is envisaged to be a modern, comprehensive Agreement with substantial coverage of goods and services.

Both sides emphasized that the FTA will create new jobs, raise living standards, and provide wider social and economic opportunities in India and all the GCC countries. Both sides agreed to significantly expand and diversify the trade basket in line with the enormous potential that exists on account of the complementary business and economic ecosystems of India and the GCC.

Goyal said the FTA between India and GCC countries will be a comprehensive economic partnership. “What exactly can be expected needs to be discussed bilaterally. For example, UAE is looking to invest around USD 100 billion in India, Crown prince of Saudi Arabia was here in India. He indicated that he is also looking for an investment at a very large level in India. I am quite confident that the 2 sides will set new benchmarks together,” he added.

Nayef Falah M Al-Hajraf, secretary general of GCC said, “We are keen to pursue FTA negotiations. The world has been hit hard by the pandemic and the economic outlook looks uncertain. It is time to capitalise on the already existing strong relationship between the GCC and India.”

“We’ve instructed our respective negotiation teams to finalise all documents for the FTA. The FTA is a means to capitalise on what’s already existing between India and GCC,” he added.

Hajraf said, “The FTA will cater to our economy after Covid-19. Businesses have entered into a new challenging era and FTA will boost trade and investment, food and energy security and also help us address climate change and other concerns. The relations between GCC countries and India are deep-rooted.”

The GCC is a union of six countries in the Gulf region — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. The earlier two rounds of FTA negotiations between India and the GCC was held in 2006 and 2008. The third round did not happen as GCC deferred its negotiations with all countries and economic groups.

He also said that Indian expats contribute to the GCC economy.

Gulf nations are host to a sizeable Indian population. Out of about 32 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), nearly half are estimated to be working in the Gulf countries.

GCC countries account for almost 35 per cent of India’s oil imports and 70 per cent of gas imports. India’s overall crude oil imports from the GCC in 2021-22 were about USD 48 billion, while LNG and LPG imports in 2021-22 were about USD 21 billion.  (ANI)

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