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FTA with Gulf Cooperation Council likely

Tribune News Service | 30 July 2009

FTA with Gulf Cooperation Council likely

Ruchika M. Khanna

Chandigarh - India’s total trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Oman, Iran and Kuwait) will grow phenomenally to $150 billion by 2012, provided the Free trade Agreement (FTA) is signed between the two countries.

This was stated by the Ambassador, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Faisal Hassan Trad, while talking to TNS on the sidelines of an Indo-Arab and Indo-Gulf conference organised by industry body Assocham here today.

“Already India accounts for 70 per cent of the total trade with the GCC. With a sizeable increase in trade between the two sides and a potential for further increase in trade relations calls for an early signing of an FTA,” he said.

Negotiations for an FTA between the GCC and India are at an advanced stage. After two rounds of talks, a third round of talks at the ministerial level is likely to begin next month. The issue of signing of FTA will also be discussed during the Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, scheduled for later this year.

Interestingly, GCC already has an FTA with Singapore, which they signed in a years’ time and with other countries in Asia like China and Malaysia. “India’s trade with GCC countries has expanded beyond oil trade. India’s trade basket with GCC is highly concentrated and its top five exports categories, including jewellery, mineral fuels, copper articles, cereals and steel article, account for over 50 per cent and top five import items represent over 17 per cent of total import basket from the bloc,” he said.

It is for furthering the trade ties that a major portion of the market access initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is now being used to promote trade between the two countries. Sangeeta Godbole, director, foreign trade, West Asia and North Africa (WANA) informed TNS that exports to WANA countries have grown by 17 per cent this year as compared to a growth of just six per cent in total exports for last fiscal. “Even the imports from these countries have grown by 23 per cent, as compared to a national growth in imports of 21 per cent. One fourth of our total trade (worth $ 810 billion) is done with these countries, so there is a special focus on promoting trade with them. We are hopeful that the third round of talks will be quite successful and pave the way for an early signing of FTA,” she said.

 source: The Tribune