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India-Israel FTA talks to gather pace next month

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NEW DELHI : Talks between India and Israel to explore the possibility of a free trade agreement (FTA) are expected to gain momentum as early as next month, people aware of the matter said.

Discussions and negotiations for an FTA with Israel have been going on for over a decade. However, over the last six months, leaders from both nations have shown enough interest to resume talks to expand bilateral trade ties.

After preliminary discussions between the countries at the end of last year, the process of exchanging items of interest, trade and tariff data had started. “Preliminary discussions had started, but the outbreak of Omicron delayed the talks. Meanwhile, Israel was also having discussions with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for an FTA. Now that Israel and UAE have concluded the agreement (last week) and (we) will have to complete the procedure of implementation of our trade deal with UAE from 1 May, India will then once again try to engage with Israel,” according to the sources.

While External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had, in October last year, said that both countries intend to conclude negotiations by June,the official cited above said that as of now there is no clarity. “We would like to reengage with Israel and see what are the gains in trade, after which we need to finalise the modalities. Once there is clarity (on whether there will be a broader trade deal to an early harvest trade agreement), then we can launch the negotiations. A timeline will be fixed once both countries finalise the modalities,” the official told Business Standard.

“FTAs are being signed for strategic reasons also and may not look only at the economic gains. In the case of Israel, the
deal isn’t significant in terms of economic/commercial gains but because Israel is now a key country for India as we are procuring defence equipment from them,” said Biswajit Dhar, Professor at Jawaharlal University.

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