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India-GCC free trade talks ‘to start in November’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided in September to speed up the FTA negotiations Evan Vucci/Pool via Reuters
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided in September to speed up the FTA negotiations
  • Chief negotiators in place
  • Decision last month to proceed
  • Imports and exports surge

India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expect to begin discussing a free trade agreement as early as November after the appointment of chief negotiators from both sides, according to Indian commerce ministry officials.

The plans to begin talks on an FTA were announced last November, but delayed due to the non-appointment of a chief negotiator from the GCC, a ministry official told Moneycontrol, an Indian financial news portal.

“The chief negotiator of the GCC has now been appointed and talks should begin soon,” the official added.

The first round of talks should begin within one month, the report said, quoting another government official.

The GCC bloc comprises six countries – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

India and GCC signed a framework agreement in August 2004, followed by two rounds of talks in 2006 and 2008. The third round was shelved as GCC deferred negotiations with all countries and economic groups.

In September 2023, Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to expedite the FTA negotiations.

Imports from GCC countries to India rose 20 percent year on year to $133 billion in 2023, while exports rose 16.7 percent annually to $51.3 billion. 

The UAE is India’s third-largest trading partner, while Saudi Arabia was its fourth-largest trading partner this year.

In February 2022, India became the first country with which the UAE signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (Cepa).

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