DUBAI – The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and India are expected to conclude a free trade agreement for boosting trade within a year, K K M Kutty, former chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII-southern region), has said.
"We have to manage all six GCC countries and that is the problem. Within a year, it should come through. If the (free trade) negotiation was with one country, it would have been much easier," he said Tuesday as reported by the Press Trust of India.
Kutty is leading a CII business delegation to Muscat.
CII is pressing the government and local trade bodies in all countries to speed up the process, he said.
The six GCC countries and India have identified various potential sectors like petroleum oil and energy, gas and fertilizers, information technology, higher education, civil aviation and agriculture.
An FTA in the region will benefit India substantially as the six member countries control over 45 percent of the world’s recoverable oil wealth and 20 percent of gas resources.
The FTA will remove restrictive duties and push down tariffs on goods being traded.
This will provide Indian pharmaceutical and chemical industry to export their products to the Gulf region.
Kutty said Oman is one of the two focus countries in GCC identified by CII for strengthening economic relations.
"Oman is one of the major trading partners of India and there are tremendous opportunities between the two countries," he said.
Addressing an inter-active meeting, Indian Ambassador to Oman, J S Mukul, said bilateral trade between Oman and India surpassed $5 billion last year. "There are 1,500 Indo-Oman joint ventures operating in Oman," he said.
A Framework Agreement on Economic Cooperation between India and Gulf Cooperation Council was signed on Aug. 25, 2004. The agreement provided that both the parties will consider ways and means for extending and liberalizing the trade relations and also initiating discussions on the feasibility of FTA between them.
First round of Negotiations was held in the Headquarters of GCC, Riyadh on March 21- 22, 2006. During this round, GCC side agreed to include services as well as investment and general economic cooperation along with goods in the GCC-India FTA. Another hallmark of this round is Agreement on the modalities for negotiations have been finalized. It was also agreed to conclude the negotiations at the earliest.
Second round of negotiations was held in Riyadh on Sept. 9-10, 2008. During this round the discussion progressed in the earlier decided Working Groups. Proposed Tariff Liberalization Scheduled was discussed during this round.
It was further decided that the third round of negotiations would be held in Delhi.
Industry consultations were held to ascertain industry views on the matter. – SG/Agencies