India, GCC agree to pursue FTA; resume talks: Goyal


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

GCC is a union of six countries in the Gulf region — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. The council is the largest trading bloc of India.

India’s exports to the GCC member countries grew by 58.26% to about $44 billion in 2021-22 against $27.8 billion in 2020-21, according to data from the Commerce Ministry.

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

“We have agreed to pursue the free trade agreement between GCC and India and resume the negotiations and conclude the same at the earliest,” Mr. Goyal told reporters here in a joint press conference with GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah M Al-Hajraf here.

GCC countries contribute almost 35% of India’s oil imports and 70% of its gas imports. India’s overall crude oil imports from the GCC in 2021-22 were about $48 billion, while LNG and LPG imports in 2021-22 stood at about $21 billion.

Earlier in 2006 and 2008, both sides had negotiated a trade pact, which stopped because of some reasons.

When asked about the next round of talks to resume the negotiations, Mr. Goyal said teams of both sides would decide on that.

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