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India, Israel to start talks on free trade agreement next month

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Modi during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India and Israel agreed to resume talks on a free trade agreement from November, with the aim of signing a deal by mid 2022, both countries said on Monday.

Ties between the two countries have grown closer in the seven years since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in power, and a number of strategic, military and technology partnerships have been formed during that time.

Free trade talks were announced after the countries' foreign ministers met in Jerusalem, where they also agreed on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and expanded cooperation in water and agriculture, the countries said in a statement.

“We are continuing with our policy of connections, and we have seen in India a very important ally for many years. India also brings with her new opportunities for cooperation,” Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.

India aims to sign new trade deals with several countries including Australia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Canada, to boost exports and help the country recover faster from its coronavirus-induced slowdown.

Total merchandise trade between the two countries stood at $4.67 billion by the end of last financial year ending in March, 2021, according to data from India's trade ministry.

India aims for record growth in merchandise exports of nearly 37% to $400 billion in the current fiscal year ending in March 2022. In April-September 2021 merchandise exports were $197.89 billion, up over 57% from the same period last year.

(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed, Editing by William Maclean)

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