The next round of talks for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between India and Oman will start from January 16 and the negotiations for the pact are progressing well, a senior official said on Tuesday.
The talks on the text of most of the chapters have been concluded by both sides for the pact, officially dubbed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
"The negotiations are progressing well. Two rounds of in-person negotiations and many inter-sessional meetings have already been held. Good progress has been made on all the chapters covered under the CEPA," the official said.
On certain media reports that the talks may get delayed, the official said that any talk of hindrances or bottlenecks is "speculative and presumptuous" as the negotiating process is currently underway.
Currently, both sides are working towards conclusion of the negotiations with an objective of delivering a mutually beneficial agreement contributing to the welfare and development of the people of the two countries, the official, who does not wish to be named, said.
For India, Oman is the third largest export destination among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The bilateral trade was USD 12.39 billion in 2022-23 as against USD 5 billion in 2018-19. India's exports have increased from USD 2.25 billion in 2018-19 to USD 4.48 billion in 2022-23.
According to a report of think tank GTRI (Global Trade Research Institute), Indian goods worth USD 3.7 billion such as gasoline, iron and steel, electronics, and machinery will get a significant boost in Oman, once both sides reach a comprehensive free trade agreement.
India's imports from Oman stood at about USD 8 billion in 2022-23. Key products included petroleum products (USD 4.6 billion), urea (USD 1.2 billion); propylene and ethylene polymers (USD 383 million).
Currently, over 80 per cent of India's goods enter Oman at an average of 5 per cent import duties, the GTRI report has said, adding Oman's import duty ranges from 0 to 100 per cent along with the existence of specific duties.
In a CEPA, two countries could significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them besides easing norms for promoting trade in services and increasing investments.
The report has said that Oman's higher per capita income (USD 25,060) compared to India's (USD 2,370) could mean a demand for more diversified and possibly higher-value goods and services in Oman, which India could aim to supply.
The agreement also holds considerable strategic importance for India. It serves as a gateway for India to strengthen its footprint in Middle Eastern economies. This partnership with Oman can act as a catalyst, enhancing India's geopolitical presence and fostering deeper ties with other Middle Eastern countries.
Commenting on the proposed pact, international trade expert and Hi-Tech Gears Chairman Deep Kapuria said this agreement would also help in boosting trade ties of India with the Middle East countries, which is a growing market for domestic products.
The agreement holds importance in view of India's USD 1 trillion exports target of merchandise products by 2030, Kapuria said.