The Times of India | 6 November 2023
India works on free trade deal with Gulf countries
NEW DELHI: After a delay of several months, India and
the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) have begun
discussing the contours of a free trade agreement, which
may not include a bilateral investment treaty.
Through the agreement, India will be eyeing a large and
affluent market for its goods and also concessions on visas
in a region, which has traditionally seen a flow of a large
number of Indian workers and professionals.
In return, it will also hope to attract investment.
But officials indicated that a bilateral investment treaty
may be replaced by a chapter in the agreement, and both
sides are seen to be open to this kind of a deal. Detailed
negotiations for the proposed treaty are yet to begin,
sources told TOI.
While the six-nation GCC - comprising Saudi Arabia, the
UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman - had indicated their
intent to move ahead with the proposed FTA more than a
year ago, there was reluctance in certain sections, leading
to a delay. After the UAE, this will be the second trade
pact in the region, with sources indicating that Oman too
has shown its intent to sign a separate agreement.
The agreement with GCC was planned during the UPA
regime but was put on the backburner amid a huge gap in
positions. It was only after India walked out of RCEP that
the government reopened trade negotiations and has gone
ahead and signed at least three treaties that were in the
pipeline for years - Maldives, the UAE and an interim
agreement with Australia - with the UK and EU under
India’s exports to the GCC nations was pegged at over
$51 billion during the last financial year, with shipments
valued at nearly $21 billion during April-August this year.
Oil products, gems and jewellery, electrical machinery,
chemicals and cereals are among India’s top export items.
On the other hand, imports were valued at $133 billon
during 2022-23 and just over $39 billion during April-
August this year.