Muscat: The Omani-Indian Joint Committee explored means to enhance cooperation between the two countries in economic, trade, service and investment fields during its eighth session held at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Monday.

The Omani side to the meeting was chaired Dr. Ali bin Mas’oud Al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry whilst the Indian side was headed by Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation, who is currently visiting the Sultanate accompanied by Indian officials and businessmen.

During the meeting, the Indian side was briefed on the procedural facilities provided by the Sultanate through the “Invest East” portal to facilitate economic and investment activities and to identify the activities organised by the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs), as well as investments to which the foreign investor is entitled to invest 100 per cent.

The meeting also focused on the opportunities in the mining sector in the Sultanate with the possibility of benefiting from some successful Indian experiences and benefiting from the experience of the Indian side in establishing ICT based industries, such as applications, electronic services and software.

Dr. Ali bin Mas’oud Al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Head of the Omani side in the Committee, described the eighth session of the Omani-Indian Joint Committee as very important as it discussed new areas of cooperation. The session provided the opportunity to review the growth in reciprocal trade between the Sultanate and the Republic of India according to the statistics of 2016 and 2017.

“The session discussed facilitating the transit of vegetables and fruits directly from Indian ports to the Sultanate by dealing directly with Indian companies. This will ensure quick delivery of products to the consumers. The session also discussed issues related to energy, clean energy, and space sciences,” he added.

With regard to increasing the number of flights of Oman Air and SalamAir, the Minister of Commerce and Industry affirmed that this has become a requirement especially the Sultanate is close to reaching the limit set by the Indian side, which is 80 per cent of the number of flights granted to the Omani side. This is expected to take place before the end of this year. Afterwards, the door will be open for negotiations to increase direct flights between the Sultanate and different cities in India.

Regarding trade exchange and the volume of investment between the two countries, Dr. Al Sunaidy said that there is direct and indirect trade exchange. The total value of the Omani exports to India hit more than $2.5 billion. The value of Omani imports from India crossed $1.4 billion. He pointed out that the Sultanate is seeking to increase trade exchange both directly and indirectly.

Dr. Al Sunaidy said that there are more than 3,000 joint Omani- Indian companies in the Sultanate with more than 150 of them owned completely by India. He noted that there is an expansion in the State General Reserve Fund’s (SGRF) investment in India. The Fund invests in many projects in India. The Technical Fund also invests in a number of Indian companies in Bangalore.

The Minister of Commerce and Industry added that during the meeting, the two sides discussed the key projects that may be set up in the Special Economic Zone in Duqm (SEZD), such as petrochemical industries, steel, mining and food. He pointed out that the zone is set to be a major centre for food industries for export due to different seasons between India and Australia, and between India and Africa. He noted that large Indian companies were invited to invest in Duqm in the food industry and in particular in packing food for a long time. On his part, Suresh Prabhu, Indian Minister of Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation said that Omani-Indian relations are very old.

The two countries are bound by strong historic ties as both sides seek to enhance these relations.

He added that the Sultanate is the preferred destination for the Indian side to invest in various commercial fields. He pointed out that there is a trend by the Indian and Omani sides to enhance joint ventures, which focus on East African markets. He stressed the importance of the strategic location of the Sultanate in the field of trade. He also highlighted the many facilities and services, which achieve mutual benefits for both countries.

Suresh Prabhu said that the volume of trade exchange between the two countries stood at $10 billion. He pointed out that the reciprocal trade is growing constantly due to the increase in the volume of imports and exports between the two countries. He pointed out that the meeting discussed several topics including food security and quality of goods and commodities.

The 8th session of the joint Omani Indian Committee were attended by the Sultanate’s Ambassador to the Republic of India, the Indian Ambassador to the Sultanate and members of the Omani and Indian sides at the Committee.

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