Nath hints at more oil imports from GCC countries
Dubai, Mar 27: Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has said India plans to increase its oil imports from the seven-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to accelerate its booming economy.
He said that officials from India and the GCC would meet in May to start fast-track negotiations on a free trade agreement by early 2007.
''I am confident that the free trade agreement, which includes services, investments and larger economic cooperation, will be signed as per schedule,'' he told Gulf News.
''We have already fixed the next date for May this year so that the working groups can start negotiations,'' Mr Kamal Nath said.
''That is the kind of pace we are setting,'' he remarked after a luncheon meeting yesterday with Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which was attended by Indian and Pakistani businessmen.
The Minister said all key issues related to the free trade agreement would be taken up for discussion before the treaty is signed.
While India has signed key agreements with individual GCC countries such as the Investment Protection Agreement, Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and Extradition Treaty, it has yet to sign similar pacts with all Gulf countries.
''But such key agreements are all a part of this (free trade agreement), they are getting into place one by one, and these will be with the GCC,'' he said.
Mr Kamal Nath said India was looking at importing more crude oil from the GCC. ''We obtain two thirds of our oil from the GCC. So naturally we want to increase our imports especially because of India's growth and increasing demand for oil,'' he added.
India's crude oil imports are worth about 50 billion dollars currently and two thirds are imported from the GCC. Non-oil trade between India and the GCC is worth nearly 20 billion dollars.
''With 20 billion dollars of trade, we have agreed to initiate a quantum leap in our economic engagement, which comes naturally to the two countries,'' Mr Kamal Nath said.