20221123 india gcc trade
GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf with Dr S Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India in Delhi. Image Credit: Twitter

Delhi: India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member nations agreed to resume talks on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), a top GCC official announced Thursday.

Representing the six GCC nations that are part of the agreement, Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf, Secretary General of the GCC, said mutually agreed areas of focus in the talks would be food security, energy security and technology transfer, among others.

Speaking at a press briefing following close-door bilateral talks with India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, Al-Hajraf said a time frame is yet to be set for the two nations to ink the deal.

The secretary-general stated the main objective of the FTA is to get the ball rolling and create a platform for the two economies to move forward with the free trade pact.

Al-Hajraf, said, “The last two years were a tough one. A pandemic has hit the world. Now is the time to catalyse the strong relations between India and the GCC.”

Moreover, the FTA will cater to new economic models and be very modern in nature, stated the secretary–general. “Businesses have entered a new challenging era, and we want to enhance our joint efforts in trade, investment, climate change, and food security,” added Al-Hajraf.

These talks mark the third attempt to ink a trade pact between the two regions, with negotiations previously held in 2006 and 2008. “The trade deal would be a comprehensive one. We have had two rounds of negotiations previously, and the main intention is to resume negotiations and bring the teams back together,” added Al-Hajraf.

Meanwhile, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, said, “The GCC is India’s largest trading partner, with bilateral merchandise trade valued at $154 billion and bilateral services valued at $14 billion. We share complementary business and economic ecosystems.

The Minister added, “While India plays an important role in food security, the GCC has remained a reliable partner for India’s energy needs. A total of 35 per cent of India’s oil imports and 75 per cent of gas imports come from the GCC.”

India has already implemented a free trade pact, or Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), with the UAE in May this year, resulting in UAE exporters enjoying greater market access through preferential tariff rates.

India will aim for a fair and mutually beneficial FTA deal with a focus remaining on labour-intensive sectors and aims to generate over a hundred thousand jobs through the agreement.