Indo-Arabic economic bloc mooted

Indo-Arabic economic bloc mooted

PTI

MONDAY, JANUARY 08, 2007

DUBAI: The UAE has proposed an Indo-Arabic economic bloc with a view to ensure prosperity and growth over the long term for the two sides.

Noting that trade between UAE and India witnessed a dramatic change recently, UAE Economy Minister Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi said "trade exchange between the two countries was limited to spices. This has been replaced by oil, infrastructure materials and hi-tech products."

Speaking at the opening of the 6th Indo-Arab Conference and the Exhibition of Indian Products held in Sharjah, she said Sunday that India was striding confidently to become one of the world’s leading economies as the country posted 8.9 per cent growth in national income during the first quarter of 2006.

She said India and Arab countries should move towards an economic blow uniting the two regions.

"I believe such a bloc could result in the outcomes we both seek - prosperity and growth over the long term," she said.

The UAE Minister also noted that Gulf countries host more than six million Indians who transfer about $20 billion annually to their country. Indian minister for company affairs Prem Chand Gupta told the conference that "India is keen that the Arab world plays an important role in India’s economic development."

"The Gulf countries with surplus resources are looking for investment opportunities. Their joining India can make the partnership ideal in many sectors," Gupta said.

Indian officials at the meet said the country’s fast growing economy needs to attract mover Arab investment and in return the Arab world could benefit from Indian achievements in medical science, engineering, manufacturing, education and information technology.

India and the GCC are negotiating a free trade agreement and the next round of talks is expected in April. However, no date has been set yet for the talks. India’s total annual trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) exceeds $15 billion, representing 15 per cent of the country’s total foreign trade, according to the Indian minister.

Gupta said the government is improving regulatory environment to make it easier for foreign companies to do business in India. "Indo-Arab economic relations are today substantially different from the past because of India’s emergence as a modern industrial entity," Anil Agarwal, president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), said.

He said a study carried out by his group has identified potential joint ventures in several areas, including petroleum, petrochemicals, gas, refineries, automobiles, food processing and pharmaceuticals. "India is a leader in IT, biotechnology and space. Mutual development and sharing of technology will reap benefits for both," he said.

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source: Economic Times