India, GCC agree to take forward Free Trade Agreement; Resume talks: Piyush Goyal

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said that India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have agreed to take forward a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two regions and resume negotiations.

The GCC is a federation of six countries in the Gulf region – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. The Council is the largest business block in India.

According to commerce ministry data, India’s exports to GCC member countries are set to grow by 58.26 per cent to nearly USD 44 billion in 2021-22 from USD 27.8 billion in 2020-21.

Bilateral trade in goods to increase from US$ 87.4 billion in 2020-21 to US$ 154.73 billion in 2021-22. Services trade between the two regions was valued at around USD 14 billion in 2021-22, with total exports at USD 5.5 billion and imports at USD 8.3 billion.

Goyal told reporters here at a joint press conference with GCC Secretary-General Nayef Falah M Al-Hajraf, “We look forward to taking forward the Free Trade Agreement between the GCC and India and resuming negotiations and completing it at the earliest.” agreed upon.”

The GCC countries contribute about 35 per cent of India’s oil imports and 70 per cent of its gas imports. India’s total crude oil imports from the GCC in 2021-22 were estimated to be around US$ 48 billion, while LNG and LPG imports were to be around US$ 21 billion in 2021-22.

The two sides held talks for a trade deal in 2006 and 2008 but talks stalled thereafter for unknown reasons.

Asked about the next round of talks to resume talks, Goyal said the teams on both sides will decide on it. He said the FTA covers areas including trade, and investment promotion.

“I am sure that the engagement with the GCC will truly be in harmony with the unique and special relationship between the countries of the GCC region and India,” Goyal said. GCC, GCC is a reliable partner in meeting India’s energy security”.

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The GCC Secretary General said: “This is a very comprehensive FTA and it reflects areas of mutual interest to focus on”.

Al-Hajraf said it is a platform for both economies to move forward on some areas of mutual interest such as food security, energy security and technology transfer.

“We are very keen to take forward the FTA talks between the two sides….and we directed the negotiating teams to finalize all necessary documents for official resumption of the FTA,” he said.

He also said that the Indian diaspora contributes to the GCC economy.

There is a sizeable Indian population living in the Gulf countries. Nearly half of the nearly 32 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) are estimated to work in the Gulf countries.

GCC countries account for about 35 per cent of India’s oil imports and 70 per cent of gas imports. India’s total crude oil imports from the GCC in 2021-22 were estimated to be around US$ 48 billion, while LNG and LPG imports were to be around US$ 21 billion in 2021-22.

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