The GCC as a trade bloc is the largest trade partner to India
India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have agreed to work towards early conclusion of the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two sides.

The two sides discussed the issue during the first round of the India-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) on Monday.

"Both sides conveyed happiness over the progress in trade and investment between India-GCC countries. Both sides agreed for an early finalisation of India-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA)," India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said after the meeting, which was held in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

The two sides had also discussed their intent to pursue negotiations on the India-GCC FTA during a meeting between India's Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf in New Delhi on November 24, 2022.

Monday's India-GCC SOM meeting was held pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on India-GCC Mechanism of Consultation during External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's visit to Riyadh in September 2022.

The meeting was attended by all six GCC members - United Arab Emirates (UEA), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait.

While the Indian delegation was led by Secretary (CPV&OIA) Ausaf Sayeed, the GCC delegation was headed by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Negotiations Abdul Aziz Bin Hamad Al-Owaishaq.

According to the MEA, India also invited more collaboration between the two sides in renewable energy, food security, health, IT sector and counter terrorism.

"Both sides proposed formation of Joint Working Groups to cater to particular areas of cooperation between India and GCC countries. These joint working groups would be headed by experts and would ensure regular and continuous progress across priority sectors," the MEA said.

Both sides appreciated the progress in relations between India-GCC countries built on historical ties, coupled with growing trade and investment, and presence of approximately 8.5 million Indian diaspora in the region. They agreed that people to people ties need to be further enhanced.

It is worth noting that the GCC as a trade bloc is the largest trade partner to India with a total trade of USD 154 Billion in FY 2021-22.

According to data shared by India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry in November 2022, exports were valued at approximately USD 44 billion and imports at around USD 110 billion (non-oil exports of USD 33.8 Billion and non-oil imports of USD 37.2 Billion) in FY 2021-22.

Bilateral trade in services between India and the GCC was valued at around USD 14 billion in FY 2021-22, with exports valued at USD 5.5 Billion and imports at USD 8.3 Billion, the official data said.