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Israel and India set to restart free trade talks

Narendra Modi in Israel Creative Commons: Mark Neyman / Government Press Office of Israel
Relations between Israel and India have grown closer since Narendra Modi took office. The Indian PM, seen with then President Reuven Rivlin, visited Israel in July 2017

Israel and India are preparing to resume talks on a free trade agreement, Israel’s economy ministry said on Monday, adding that an Indian delegation had arrived in Jerusalem to discuss framework rules and coordinate expectations for negotiations.

Last October, India and Israel agreed to resume free trade talks with an aim of signing a deal by mid-2022.

A senior team from India’s industry and trade department will meet their Israeli counterparts to discuss the ground rules, but the ministry did not say when actual trade negotiations would resume.

Ties between the two countries have grown closer in the eight years since Narendra Modi became prime minister of India, with a number of strategic, military and technology partnerships formed in that period.

Bilateral trade between the two totalled $6.3 billion in 2021, up from $200 million in 1992 when they opened diplomatic relations. Israel has emerged as one of India’s biggest suppliers of weapons alongside the United States and long-term partner Russia.

“We share similar challenges in a wide range of fields, from agriculture, climate and water to homeland security, fintech and cyber,” said Israeli economy minister Orna Barbivai.

She called the relationship between the two countries “strategic” and added that a free trade deal would significantly boost existing collaboration.

Ron Malka, the ministry’s director general and former Israeli ambassador to India, said in the statement a deal would ease trade barriers for Israeli companies operating in India, strengthen trade and economic cooperation and help the government in its efforts to lower the cost of living.

Last month Israel signed a free trade agreement with the UAE.

India is seeking new trade deals with governments including the UAE, Australia, Britain and Canada, to boost exports and help the country recover faster from its coronavirus-induced slowdown.