India and Qatar are set to hold their first joint working group (JWG) meeting on trade issues this week to further push bilateral trade by identifying and removing tariff and non-tariff barriers, including regulatory hurdles, sources have said.

The move follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Qatar counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha in February this year where the two agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in sectors such as trade, investment, energy, finance and technology.

“India wants to use the JWG meeting, led by senior officials from both sides, to initiate measures that would increase the country’s exports to Qatar in order to lower the trade gap with the country. The Commerce Department recently took inputs from various industry sectors for the agenda to push for at the meeting,” a source tracking the matter told businessline

In 2023-24, India’s imports from Qatar were valued at $12.3 billion while its exports totalled $1.7 billion leading to a trade gap of $10.68 billion. Qatar was India’s 23rd largest trading partner during the fiscal.

FTA talks

The India-Qatar JWG meeting scheduled on July 10 is also significant as the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks between India and the Gulf Coordination Committee (GCC) countries — which includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — are yet to gather steam.

“As Qatar imposes an import duty of 5 per cent on most goods, ranging from textiles to food products, tariff reduction would help Indian exports be more competitive. While the India-GCC FTA could take time, New Delhi can try and convince Qatar to reduce import duties through bilateral discussions,” an industry representative said.

There has been some increase in India’s exports to Qatar over the last decade, facilitated by the opening of direct shipping lines linking Indian ports with Qatar, but there is much scope for further growth, the source said.

The increase in exports from India has been in the area of food products, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, steel products and construction materials. “The Indian industry has submitted inputs related to tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers, Customs-related problems, regulatory issues and logistics and infrastructure,” the source noted.

Last month, Qatar and India held their first joint working group on investment in New Delhi to deepen economic ties with focus on sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, IT, health and education.

Qatar’s key exports to India include LNG, LPG, chemicals and petrochemicals, fertilizers, plastics and aluminium articles. India’s key exports to Qatar include cereals, copper articles, iron and steel articles, vegetables, fruits, spices, and processed food products, electrical and other machinery, plastic products, construction materials, textiles and garments, chemicals, precious stones and rubber.