Business Standard

India-oman trade pact may be finalised soon

Legal vetting of text of proposed deal underway

- SHREYA NANDI

India and Oman are close to finalising a trade agreement and officials from both sides have already started the process of legal vetting of text of the proposed free-trade agreement (FTA), two people aware of the matter said.

“The trade deal is almost final. Legal scrubbing of the FTA text is already on,” one of the persons cited above told Business Standard. India is keen to finalise the trade pact before the model code of conduct (MCC) kicks in ahead of the general elections, making the timing of a proposed deal crucial. MCC can be announced any time now.

A trade deal with the West Asian nation is a part of India’s efforts to improve relations with Gulf nations, with Oman being India’s strategic partner, having trade links of about 5,000 years. That apart, Oman is also a part of the six-member Gulf Cooperatio­n Council (GCC). These nations include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While India and the UAE signed a comprehens­ive FTA two years ago, the official launch of negotiatio­ns with GCC is awaited.

After walking out of China-backed bloc Regional Comprehens­ive and Economic Partnershi­p (RCEP) in 2019, India has now revamped its foreign trade strategy.

Over the last three years, India has signed FTAS with Mauritius, UAE and Australia.

A pact with United Kingdom (UK) and European Free Trade Associatio­n (EFTA) nations is being eyed by the government before the general elections.

Progress of talks

At least four rounds of talks have taken place so far between India and Oman.

Formal commenceme­nt of the negotiatio­ns started in November. Negotiatio­ns on the text of most chapters were concluded by India and Oman by January. Government officials said the India-uae agreement is expected to be replicated in the case of Oman. This made it easier for the two sides to negotiate. Bilateral trade has seen robust growth, increasing from $3.15 billion in FY22 to $4.48 billion during FY23, up 42 per cent.

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