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India, GCC to ink free trade agreement within a yr: CII

Dubai: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and India are expected conclude a free trade agreement for boosting trade within a year, K K M Kutty, former chairman of industry chamber 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. We have to manage all six GCC countries and that is the problem. Within a year, it should come through," Kutty, who is leading a CII business delegation to Muscat, was quoted as saying by daily `Times of Oman` Tuesday.

CII is pressing the government and local trade bodies in all countries to speed up the process, he said.

The six GCC countries Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and India have identified various potential sectors like petroleum oil and energy, gas and fertilisers, 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 per cent of the world`s recoverable oil wealth and 20 per cent of gas resources, said the newspaper report.

The FTA will remove restrictive duties and push down tariffs on goods being traded. This will provide Indian pharma 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 USD 5 billion last year. "There are 1,500 Indo-Oman joint ventures operating in Oman," he said.

The delegation also had a one-on-one discussion with their Omani counterparts to seek joint venture opportunities and other business associations.

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