Saudi Arabia seeks to boost trade, investment with India

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) Saudi Arabia Wednesday said there is a huge potential for stepped up economic engagement with India in view of the growing uncertainties in Europe and the US, and called for a liberal visa regime for businessmen for increased trade and investment.

‘There is a great potential to increase bilateral trade. There is need for more economic cooperation,’ the kingdom’s Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfeeq bin Fouzan Al Rabiah said here.

Al Rabiah invited Indian companies to invest in his country which, according to him, would offer opportunities of $625 billion by 2020.

Al Rabiah, who is leading a 35-member business delegation to India, said bilateral trade had risen five times in the last 10 years.

‘There is a big jump in our trade. It increased to over $25 billion last year from around $5 billion 10 years ago. But I see huge potential to increase it further,’ Al Rabiah said on the sidelines of the fourth India-Saudi Arabia Business Council meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Two-way trade between India and Saudi Arabia was $25.61 billion in 2010-11. The balance of trade is tilted in favour of Saudi Arabia as India imports huge quantities of oil and petrochemical products.

India imports almost 23 percent of its crude oil requirements from Saudi Arabia. The country imported goods worth $20.38 billion in 2010-11, but its exports were a mere $5.22 billion.

The visiting minister held talks with Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma aimed at boosting commercial ties.

‘Economic ties between India and Saudi Arabia will constitute a very solid foundation for the development of strategic partnership. While the trade ties at present are already quite substantial, there exists immense potential for taking the bilateral trade relations to a higher level,’ said Sharma.

Sharma emphasised the need for increasing the volume of trade in traditional items and diversifying the trade basket.

‘India would like to participate in the petroleum and gas sectors in Saudi Arabia both upstream and downstream and invites Saudi Arabia to invest in Indian petroleum and gas based mega industrial estates, fertilisers and petrochemical plants and refineries,’ the commerce and industry ministry said in a statement after the talks.

The two countries have pledged to elevate the current buyer-seller relationship to a ‘strategic energy cooperation’.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Saudi Arabian minister called for greater two-way investment flows.

‘Saudi Arabia offers investment opportunities of $625 billion by 2020. We welcome Indian companies with skills and talent to take part in our development process,’ Al Rabiah said.

Over 230 Indian firms have made investments of around $1.2 billion in Saudi Arabia so far. More than 50 Saudi companies are operating in India. They have invested around $230 million.