India Africa trade: Time for India, Africa to talk of trade pact: trade secretary

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Commerce secretary BVR Subrahmanyam on Wednesday said that the time has come for India and Africa to start talking to engage in a Comprehensive Economic Partnership or a free trade agreement (FTA).

He also said that India will sign a free trade pact with the UK by October, finish the talks for a pact with Canada by the end of the year and also have an agreement with the EU by the middle of next year.

“The African Continental FTA, which came into force last January… It’s early years, a lot of it has to get operationalized. The time has come for India and Africa to also start talking (on) how can they engage in a Comprehensive Economic Partnership or a free trade agreement,” Subrahmanyam said at the Valedictory Session of the 17th Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-EXIM Bank Conclave.

He said that India’s bilateral trade with Africa- at $90 billion- is booming and can easily touch about $150 billion in three years.

The secretary added that India is already thinking of similar FTAs with Israel and GCC.

“India would be more than happy to engage with fellow countries in Africa or even the large African Continental FTA…in terms of actually can we have a partnership there? That’s going to be a win-win for both sides,” he said.

Emphasising on the need to go beyond traditional items, he said almost a quarter of India’s exports are engineering products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and a lot of industrial products.

“When I see the trade provider of Africa, a lot of it is actually raw materials,” he said, highlighting the importance of investment relationships with India.

As per Subrahmanyam, India has been giving duty free access to LDCs- which are unilateral and one sided- to about 27 countries covering about 98% of the tariff lines but six countries are not yet in it.

“And I can name them Angola, Congo, Djibouti, Mauritania, South Sudan and one or two more,” he said, adding that a letter to these countries’ missions would get that access.

He also said that India and the African continent can help each other with raw materials, technologies, manufacturing, potential investment, education, health, pharmaceuticals and become part of global value chains.

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