AGCC states eye India as investment destination

MUMBAI - The Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC) states are looking at India as an investment destination while the bilateral non-oil trade between them could double or treble from existing nearly $7 billion.

By (WAM)

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Published: Sat 21 Feb 2004, 12:41 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 11:55 PM

This was stated yesterday by UAE Minister of State for Finance Mohammad Khalfan bin Kharbash on the sidelines of the high-level two-day Indo-Gulf Industrial Conference here. Some 300 businessmen from India and 150 from the six AGCC countries are attending the meet along with commerce and industry ministers and representatives of the various chambers of commerce.

Dr Kharbash said that the Gulf countries already had some ventures with India in the oil sector and that this could be taken further to outsourcing and "Indian expertise in areas such as information technology, entertainment and healthcare to begin with."

Indian Commerce Minister Arun Jaitley, who inaugurated the conference on Tuesday, pointed out to the historical relations of trade and trust between India and the Gulf while AGCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah echoed this sentiment told the gathering that there was tremendous scope to boost economic cooperation. Jaitley also pointed out to the liberalising of the Indian economy, saying that tariffs had gone down by some 75 per cent over the last few years.

The conference is the first structured and composite dialogue between the AGCC and India, initiated by the AGCC secretariat, after the Gulf countries, which have a combined GDP of about $300 billion, sought to diversify their economic interests following the 9/11 bombings in the United States in 2001. Jaitley said that India was also keen to cut its dependence on the western nations.

The six AGCC states and India are encouraging their businessmen to forge relations and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a joint business group was signed at the outset between the federation of AGCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which is hosting the deliberations. More agreements were expected to be signed on the concluding day yesterday.

Besides Kharbash, the other ministers taking part are Saudi Commerce and Industry Minister Hashim bin A Yamani, Kuwaiti Minister of Trade Abdullah Al Taweel, Bahraini Trade Minister Ali Al Saleh, Qatari Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry Abdullah Al Attiya and Omani Minister of Commerce and Industry Maqbool Ali Sultan.

India has called all the six ambassadors from the AGCC capitals to attend the conference to ensure coordination in economic cooperation. Joint secretary of the Gulf desk in the Indian ministry of external affairs R Dayakar is also present there.

The Gulf states are keen for expanding their non-oil manufacturing base, and Indian engineering and technical expertise could be complementary to each other. India buys two-thirds of its oil needs from the Gulf, while it also has the world's biggest gas purchase agreement with Qatar, to buy nearly one billion dollars worth of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for 25 years.

India has also become a hub for business processes outsourcing (BPO) from the US and Europe, and according to Dr Kharbash, this could be done even for the AGCC states. He also indicated the possibility of common free trade zone.

With a trade of $4.5 billion, the UAE is India's second-largest trade partner after the US. There are 3.3 million Indian expatriates in the six Gulf states, about one-third of them in the UAE.

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