MUMBAI: Given the rising challenge to the free trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said Sunday that while the aim is to open up more for free trade and make WTO more efficient, the government is also keen to work on bilateral trade with more nations.
"One of the big challenges before the world is protectionism. We as a country are supporting open trade with all the countries but we also want to develop bilateral trade agreements with many countries. For each of the geographies we are keen to have free trade agreements with the countries in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia," he said, adding that New Delhi already has trade pacts with ASEAN and some other countries.
Addressing a CII event, he also said there has been an ongoing discussion with Sri Lanka for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). For countries in Africa like Angola, he said such association can be in the form of technical assistance, financial assistance and a trade agreement which will not initially have any ambitious targets but will be a win-win for both the parties.
Prabhu, who is also the Civil Aviation Minister, said the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have decided to use India as a base for their food security. "This is happening at an interesting time because we just had made a policy for agriculture exports which has identified food items that can be exported," he said.
He informed that this year the country would be producing 290 million tonnes of farm produce as per advance estimates, and 305-310 million tonnes of horticultural items. "In the export policy, we have decided to remove all restrictions on organic products and processed products. Both the UAE and Saudi want to invest in both organic as well as food processing industries. This will be a win-win situation for the UAE, Saudi, and other GCC countries but also for us, particularly for our farmers, who want better prices to their produce," he said.
Saudi Arabia has said it can make an investment in logistics, food parks and make a sector-specific investment in food processing, Prabhu said. The farm export policy will go a long way in reducing wastage, the minister said.
On the UDAN policy, he said the government will announce its phase III in the next few days, which will also focus on air cargo. On January 15, the government will be announcing the first air cargo policy, Prabhu added. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are keen to invest in all these infrastructure initiatives, he said.