India, GCC to Launch Free Trade Negotiations on Nov. 24

India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are set to start negotiations on a free trade agreement on Nov. 24, as they aim to boost economic relations between the two regions. The six-member GCC is composed of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. GCC officials are expected to travel to India to commence the talks. India has already agreed on a free trade pact with the UAE in May this year.

India’s commerce and industry minister Goyal said earlier this week that India would launch a new free trade agreement next week.

Talks could be a resumption of the two sides’ previous free trade discussions in 2006 and 2008. The third round had not happened as at that time GCC had withdrawn from negotiations with all countries and economic groupings.

India imports predominately crude oil and natural gas from the Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and exports pearls, precious and semi-precious stones; metals; imitation jewelery; electrical machinery; iron and steel; and chemicals to these countries.

India’s exports to the GCC grew by 58.26% to about $44 billion in 2021-22 from $27.8 billion in 2020-21. The share of these six countries in India’s total exports has risen to 10.4% in 2021-22 from 9.51% in 2020-21. Similarly, imports rose by 85.8% to $110.73 billion compared to $59.6 billion in 2020-21.

Other than development of bilateral trade, Gulf nations are also home to millions of Indian workers. Out of about 32 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), nearly half are thought to be working in Gulf countries.

These NRIs send a significant amount of cash back home. India got $87 billion in foreign remittances in 2021. Of this, a considerable amount came from the GCC nations.

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