Trade talks setback

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain

Trade talks setback

30 May 2007

MUMBAI: Ministers from India and Oman offered different views on the progress of free-trade talks between India and Gulf countries, although both officials yesterday said a deal was achievable.

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told a conference on GCC-India investment that he was certain a deal would be struck and expected substantial progress in the next 12 months.

But Oman’s commerce minister expressed concern about the pace of progress in the year since the free-trade talks began - although he hoped an agreement could still be signed this year.

"I am disappointed by the progress, I think it is bad the way we are going, because we met in June and since then nothing has happened. I really hope to finish this by the end of the year," Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan said.

Nath, who also handles Indian trade matters, was more upbeat despite not seeing a deal being done in 2007.

"We are in the process of negotiating a free-trade agreement, and I am certain that we will be able to conclude the talks successfully very soon. We see substantial progress on this front in the next one year," Nath said.

India’s total trade with the GCC countries has risen to $23.4 billion in 2005/06 from $5.5bn in 2000/01, the GCC said.

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