India working on free trade agreements with Israel, Middle East nations

India is working on at least six free trade agreements, including one with the United Arab Emirates that can create a gateway for Indian trade to the Middle East and Africa.

Piyush Goyal, India's Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE)
Piyush Goyal, India's Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE)

India is working on at least six free trade agreements (FTAs), including one with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that can create a gateway for Indian trade to the Middle East and Africa and New Delhi may set up a huge India Mart in Dubai to tap that market, commerce minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday.

"In fact, tomorrow (Saturday) I will be in Mumbai engaging with exporters and Indian retail industry to examine what are the benefits that UAE FTA can give us. Along with that, we are looking at other engagements with the UAE, which should be announced shortly. But we are still working to see whether we can have something like a large Indian Mart in Dubai where huge number of stores can come up to display Indian products... and that can become a place to spread our wings all across Africa and Middle East and other parts of the world," the minister said. Speaking at the annual convention of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Goyal said: "Commerce ministry working at a time almost six FTAs, and one or two more may be added in the next few days."

India is negotiating trade deals with the UAE, the UK, the European Union (EU), Australia, Canada, Israel and a group of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The deal with the UAE is expected soon, a government official said requesting anonymity.

The commerce minister on Monday said trade negotiations between India and the UAE were at an advanced stage and the two partners were expected to wrap up a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by January 2022. HT reported this development on December 14.

Along with an FTA with the UAE, India is "simultaneously in discussion" with other countries, Goyal said. "Australia in advanced stage; UK, will launch possibly next month. Canada we may launch by about March or April... The EU has already been launched, will start getting down onto the drawing board now...All GCC countries have approached us to start negotiations on behalf of the entire GCC grouping," he said asking, the industry to be prepared to grasp these opportunities.

 PM Naftali Bennett with Indian PM Narendra Modi at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO) PM Naftali Bennett with Indian PM Narendra Modi at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

On October 12, HT reported about the government's aggressive timelines for trade agreements with at least three countries — the UAE, the UK and Australia — by 2022 as part of its ambitious target of $500 billion exports by FY23. The report said a CEPA is expected to be formalized with the UAE by early 2022 followed by a free trade agreement with the UK. The minister urged the industry to "think big and set accelerated and aggressive targets", and said that India can aspire to reach $1 trillion each of services and merchandise export by around 2030.