With a new government set to take office in New Delhi, India and Israel might be close to negotiating the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA).
According to a recent statement given to an Indian newspaper by the Bangalore-based Israeli Consul for Trade and Economic Affairs Avi Friedman, the agreement is in its final stages and would be signed towards the end of this year.
The bilateral trade has already crossed $5 billion, a significant figure compared to the modest $180 million in 1992. But Israeli officials seems to be even more upbeat about the future.
During his state visit last year the Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett said: “the bilateral trade (currently at $ 5 billion) could easily be doubled in the next 5 years, if we take (BTA) forward.”
The trade pact is not only expected to increased bilateral trade, but also simplify taxation, tariffs and relocation of workforce.
Defense makes the bulk of Israel’s exports to India. Israeli arms manufacturers have managed to secure some prestigious defense contracts from New Delhi. Israel Aircraft Industries and Rafael recently tied up with Indian counterparts to bag a lucrative $2 billion contract to build an integrated anti-missile system. The bilateral arms trade is estimated at $10 billion over the last decade. The Defense partnership is expected to grow under the newly formed government headed by Narendra Modi.
Israel is keen to extend trade relations beyond defense and wants to play a greater role in industrial technology, scientific research, agriculture, water technology, and health care.
The BTA negotiations are set to get a big push with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs in New Delhi. Modi, the former chief minister of Gujarat state (2002-2014), has been a champion of India-Israel relations and a great admirer of Israeli innovation in agriculture and water technology. As Chief Minister he has successfully negotiated bilateral agreements with Israeli government, offered funds for joint Indian-Israeli industrial projects and welcomed Israeli companies to set up operations in Gujarat.
Considering the slowdown in European economies, Israel must increasingly look for growth opportunities in vibrant Asian markets. India does not only offer a huge domestic market, but an excellent gateway for Israeli companies to venture into Far-East Asian markets.