Israel has expressed reservations over India’s demand for easier movement of skilled professionals through a free trade agreement (FTA).

In the ongoing FTA talks, India has sought greater access to Israel’s services market – especially easier and more temporary work visas for skilled professionals such as accountants, professionals in the information technology and IT enabled services and the like.

However, Israel has cited sensitivities in the local job market and the problems in allowing a large number of workers from other countries, official sources told Business Line.

“Israeli negotiators said they have so far never allowed such concessions to any other country,” they said, adding that another round of talks is slated to be held next month.

Trade deal talks

Incidentally, the latest Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics figures show an increase in the country’s unemployment rate (from 6.8 per cent in April to 7.1 per cent in May). On its part, Israel is interested in getting further access to the domestic financial services, agriculture and hi-tech equipmentsectors.

India is looking at getting high-end technology from Israel, especially in water management, biotech and agriculture-related technologies, nano-technology, alternative/renewable energy as well as space and aeronautics.

Both countries are aiming to ink the FTA by year-end to deepen and widen the bilateral trade basket from its current focus on the gems and jewellery sector.

The aim is to triple annual bilateral trade from the $5 billion-level seen last year within five years. Both the sides are also holding negotiations on customs co-operation.

India’s exports to Israel in 2010-11 were worth $2.9 billion and the main components were petroleum products, gems and jewellery and chemicals, while Israel’s exports in the same period were $2.25 billion, mainly comprising diamonds, fertilisers, electrical machinery and equipment and medical kits.

arun.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 21, 2012)
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