India may consider negotiating a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Oman while it works on a comprehensive economic agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said at the India-Oman Joint Business Council meeting on Thursday. 

“We have discussed certain items where there are some issues that need to be addressed. We may consider doing a preferential trade agreement with Oman, to begin with, because we are looking for a comprehensive agreement between the GCC region and India,” Goyal said at the India-Oman Joint Business Council meeting on Thursday.

Oman’s Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Investment Promotion Qais bin Mohammed Al Yousef, Omani envoy to India Sheikh Hamad Bin Saif Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rawahi, Indian Ambassador to Oman Amit Narang, and industry representatives from both countries were present at the meeting. 

Second country

India has just concluded a free trade agreement with the UAE, one of the six GCC members. Oman will be the second country from the group that India will be negotiating a trade agreement with if things advance in the stated direction. The other GCC members include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. Although, India’s proposed free trade agreement with the GCC has been stuck for long, efforts are now on to restart the talks.

The Minister said that the long overdue Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) that took place on Wednesday between India and Oman, which had been long overdue, was a very productive one. He expressed confidence that the discussions with business leaders on both sides would complement the discussions under JCM and come up with new ideas to boost bilateral partnership.

Goyal pointed out that connections and friendship between the two countries went back 5,000 years, yet two-way trade was in the region of $7-8 billion, while investment was hovering around $5-6 billion. The Minister stressed that all the engagement that happened in the JCM, the friendship between him and his counterpart in Oman, the visionary leadership of the heads of both nations, and the warm people-to-people ties between the two nations should and must lead to a significant increase in business to business engagement, according to an official statement released by the Commerce & Industry Ministry. 

Noting the market study on cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector that was unveiled at the JCM, the Minister expressed confidence that it would be of great value to Indian industry wishing to establish a presence in Oman. “Our pharma companies will bring quality products at competitive prices to consumers in Oman and help bring down the cost of healthcare,” he assured. He also thanked Oman for agreeing to fast-track approval for Indian medicines that had already been cleared by strong regulatory environments like the UK, the EU, and the US.

India’s exports to Oman include mineral fuels, machinery, cereals, articles of iron or steel, electrical and electronic equipment, vegetables, dairy products, meat and chemicals and plastics. The main items of import from Oman include mineral fuels, fertilisers, chemicals, plastics, iron & steel and aluminium.