With the signing of the world’s largest free trade area–African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)–the time is right for India to explore a trade with the union, commerce secretary BVR Subrahmanyan said.
“The African Continental FTA came into force in January last year. I know it’s early years, a lot of it has to get operationalised, I think the time has come for India and Africa to also start talking about engaging in a comprehensive economic partnership or a free trade agreement,” Subrahmanyan said at the 17th CII-Exim Bank conclave.
“Officials (from India) will be engaging with some of your colleagues (from African nations) on trade matters to do that….We can help each other with raw materials, technologies, manufacturing, ideas and potential investment. We can help each other in education, health, in pharmaceuticals, and we can help each other become part of global value chains. And I think that is something that’s very important for both of us. We can do that. There is a great feature for our partnership,” he said.
AfCFTA brings together the 55 countries of the African Union and eight regional economic communities to create a single market for the continent, with an aim to enable the free flow of goods and services across the continent and boost the trading position of Africa in the global market.
The commerce secretary’s statement comes at a time when the Indian economy is rapidly opening up, and has signed two trade pacts with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Australia in February and April, respectively. Negotiations with developed nations such as the United Kingdom, European Union and Canada are underway.
“We are going to sign one (trade agreement) with the UK by Diwali which is in October. We’ll finish one with Canada by the end of the year. We’ll have one with the EU by the middle of next year. That’s almost pretty much a very large part of the developed world,” he said.
India is already thinking of similar free trade agreements with Israel with the GCC Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries–Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and possibly even the South African Customs Union, the secretary added.
“India would be more than happy to engage with fellow countries in Africa or collectives or even the large African continental free trade agreement in terms of actually can we have a partnership there,” he said, adding that India’s trade with Africa is booming and was about US$ 90 billion.