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GCC-India FTA to be signed in near future

Bahrain Tribune - 05/02/2006

GCC-India FTA to be signed in near future

THE GCC-India free trade agreement (FTA) will open over a billion consumers’ market for the Gulf countries.

The FTA, likely to be signed in near future, is also expected to spur two-way trade, investment and commercial activities.

This was stated by the Chairman of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Dr Esam Abdullah Fakhro, yesterday.

Dr Fakhro, who addressed a meeting titled "Business opportunities in Bahrain and India" organised by the BCCI in cooperation with ICICI Bank and the Indian embassy in Bahrain, said that India with booming economy has become a right destination for the Gulf investments.

The presentations by the Indian Ambassador, Balkrishnan Shetty, and the country head of the ICICI bank, Ajay Sharma, focused on the growth and development of Indian economy and how foreign investors would reap the benefits.

India is a huge economy and offers a rare opportunity to the foreign investors. Bahrain can benefit from the expertise of the Indian banking sector which has over $400 billion total assets and the sector is being run by a robust regulatory framework. The Indian banking industry’s growth is driven by corporate and retail lending, one of the most healthy bench marks of the global banking industry to measure the growth of the financial sector. The foreign ceiling in the banks and financial institutions is about 74 per cent, offering rare investment opportunities to the investors from the Gulf region.

Dr Fakhro said: "The Bahrain-US FTA coupled with economic and political reforms unveiled by His Majesty the King in Bahrain will also provide a strong foundation to the investors of both sides keen in joint venture and investment projects. The Indian expertise and business model can be replicated by the Gulf countries to boost their economic development.

He said: "Indian economic growth has surpassed all expectations and the last one decade had witnessed staggering growth in IT and other sectors. We are working with the Indian embassy to organise a high-level businessmen delegation’s visit to India providing a rare opportunity to the Bahraini side to learn, understand and make their minds for closer cooperation with their Indian counterparts. The BCCI is also working with the embassy to organise an Indian Catalogue Expo at the BCCI premises."

The Indian ambassador confirmed that both sides were close to sign the FTA, paving the way for greater cooperation between the two sides.

The second vice-Chairman at the BCCI, Dr Nizar Al Baharna and country head of the ICICI Bank Ajay Sharma also conducted separate presentations highlighting the salient features of the Indian economy and prospects for the Bahraini investors in all vital sectors of the Indian economy.

Ajay Sharma highlighted the potential of the Indian economy and how the investors and businessmen from Bahrain can avail the existing opportunities. He said: "Real estate and construction sector is estimated at $80 billion and has a huge potential for foreign investors through equity investments as well as direct investments in real estate.

 source: Bahrein Tribune