UAE-India trade to scale new high

Bilateral trade and investment between the UAE and India are set to start a new growth chapter in 2016 and will scale to a new peak in coming years as several agreements are expected to be signed during a high-level UAE government delegation visit to India this week, according to an expert.

Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) president Kulwant Singh said India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today and it will have a positive impact on neighbours including the UAE.

“India has a wonderful growth story in years to come and it will have a very very positive impact on the country’s close neighbours including the UAE,” Singh told Khaleej Times ahead of the UAE’s visit, which begins on February 10.

The International Monetary Fund last month projected a 7.3 per cent gross domestic product growth rate for India in the current financial year 2015-16 and 7.5 per cent in 2016-17 compared to China’s 6.3 per cent and six per cent in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Sharing his expectations, the IBPC president said the high-level UAE government delegation that will be going to India will surely refresh a lot of trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.

“There can be exchange of ideas, potential investments in various sectors such as building of low housing schemes in India, investments in infrastructure, technology, smart cities and tourism,” he said. “There will also be exchange of formulas of success. The UAE has the perfect formula for success and India has the ideal platform for opportunities. I have strong feelings that several new agreements will be signed during the visit.”

To a question about progress made on issues raised during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE last year, he said there have been many subsequent high-level-delegation visits from India such as the commerce minister, finance minister and foreign affairs minister. UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan also visited India recently.

“Such delegations show the seriousness of the Indian government in exchanging investment opportunities between the two nations,” Singh added.

$100b trade in sight

Singh was confident to say that UAE-India bilateral trade will rebound this year and scale new peaks in the coming few years.

“We shall surely be looking at $100 billion soon. I am confident that we can maintain a healthy growth of nearly 15-20 per cent every year if the connectivity between both the nations is kept in the phase as it is now,” he said. UAE-India bilateral trade currently stands firm at $60 billion after reaching all-time high mark of $74.45 billion in 2012-13. It dropped to $59.54 billion in 2013-14 and kept steady at $59.61 billion in 2014-15.

About the $75 billion infrastructure fund established last year, he said it can be available this year. “I hope this can be delivered at the earliest. The areas that needs immediate attention in India is the infrastructure sector and the smart city projects,” he said.

To a question about challenges that can affect UAE-India trade and investment in coming years, he said it is an unlikely scenario as both the nations have a strong historical relationship.

“I don’t see there could be many challenges. The air and sea connectivity between the two countries are growing. The people of both nations speak several common languages, the new generations of both nations understand each other on various business avenues and opportunities,” he said.

Singh, who is in the travel and tourism business since 1997, said the two countries still has a vast potential to promote tourism industry. Referring to latest data released by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, he said Indian tourists registered 35-40 per cent growth in 2015.

“Dubai has so much to promote to Indian visitors. The government is also very supportive in terms of trade exhibitions and road shows showcasing the beauty and various attractions of both nations to each other,” said Singh, who is also chief executive and managing director of Lama and Carfare Groups.

To a question, he said the current UAE visa process is not even a hindrance in tourism promotion as Indian nationals have 80 per cent of visa issuance in a one- or two-day time frame.

“As I mentioned earlier, the air and sea connectivity between the two nations is also rising and this boost not only the economies but tourism [number of visitors’ arriving] as well,” Singh concluded.

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