India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states decided to pursue resumption of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. This was disclosed in a joint press conference held by Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and visiting Secretary-General of GCC Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf in New Delhi last week.

During the bilateral engagement, which was termed as forward-looking and solution-oriented, “both sides agreed to expedite conclusion of the requisite legal and technical requirements for formal resumption of the FTA negotiations. The FTA is envisaged to be a modern, comprehensive agreement with substantial coverage of goods and services,” said a statement from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry following the talks.

The statement emphasized that the proposed FTA will create new jobs, raise living standards, and provide wider social and economic opportunities for both sides. They also agreed to significantly expand and diversify the trade basket in line with the enormous potential that exists on account of the complementary business and economic ecosystems of India and the GCC.

The GCC is considered the largest trading partner bloc of India, as bilateral trade in 2021-22 touched over US$154 billion with Indian exports valued at around $44 billion and imports of around $110 billion. Meanwhile, bilateral trade in services between India and the GCC was valued at around $14 billion in 2021-22, with exports valued at $5.5 billion and imports at $8.3 billion. Around 35 percent of India’s oil imports and 70 percent of gas imports are from the GCC countries while GCC investments in India are currently valued at over $18 billion.

Earlier, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had welcomed Al-Hajraf in India and noted the expanding India-GCC partnership.”Agreed to take it forward in newer areas, including in trade, security, culture and education. Also exchanged perspectives on regional and global developments and on building collective resilience,” Jaishankar said on his official Twitter account ​.

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