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India-Uzbek PTA talks gather momentum coinciding with Central Asia summit

The Economic Times | 27 January 2022

India-Uzbek PTA talks gather momentum coinciding with Central Asia summit

By Kirtika Suneja & Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

Ahead of the India-Central Asia summit on Thursday, India and Uzbekistan have fast-tracked talks for a bilateral trade pact, the first for India in that region.

The first round of joint working group meetings with Uzbekistan was held in the first week of January and the inter-governmental commission on trade is also scheduled this month.

“A trade pact with Uzbekistan is of strategic importance, especially after the political changes in Afghanistan,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified.

India and Uzbekistan had signed a joint statement in September 2019 to carry out a joint feasibility study for entering into negotiations for a preferential trade agreement (PTA).

The proposed PTA will contribute to fast-tracking India’s connectivity to the landlocked region and vice versa. Smoother connectivity will also enable India to boost PTA, said an expert on Central Asia. The PTA with Uzbekistan will also enable India to tap into the markets of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The Indo-Uzbek PTA is also expected to contribute to the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the Eurasian Economic Union. Talks between India-Eurasian Economic Union have gained momentum and negotiations are expected to be held in the near future. The proposed India- Uzbek PTA and FTA between India and Eurasian Economic Union is politically significant, raising India’s stakes in the region. Russia has thrown its weight behind India’s moves to increase presence in Central Asia and Eurasia.

In April-November 2021, India’s exports to Uzbekistan amounted to $176.22 million, led by pharmaceuticals, mechanical equipment, vehicle parts, services, optical instruments and equipment. India’s imports from Uzbekistan, at $14.58 million during the period, consisted largely of fruit and vegetable products, services, fertilisers, juice products and extracts, and lubricants.

The official said India is keen to export goods worth $500 billion next year, which is why it is scouting for new markets through trade agreements.
Notable Indian investments in Uzbekistan by Indian companies include those in the field of pharmaceuticals, amusement parks, automobile components and hospitality industry. Indian firms like GMR have expressed interest in investment in airports, development of the air corridor and Navoi cargo complex in Uzbekistan. Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital has expressed interest in setting up a specialty hospital, according to a note of the external affairs ministry.

In October 2019, Amity University and Sharda University opened campuses in Tashkent and Andijan respectively. Indian institutions like iCreate are actively cooperating with Uzbek counterparts for promoting the startup ecosystem in Uzbekistan and training entrepreneurs in setting up incubators.

Dev IT has entered into bilateral cooperation in field research, technologies, startups and innovations with budding Uzbek partners. NTPC is also participating in various tenders, including solar PV power plants and consultancy assignments for gas projects in Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, India and Uzbekistan are in talks for a bilateral investment treaty.

 source: The Economic Times