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China keen on free trade agreement with India

The indication was given by Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan his Indian counterpart Suresh Prabhu at the India-China Joint Economic Group (JEC) meeting

Ashok Tuteja | New Delhi |


Amid a trade war with the United States, China has indicated its keenness to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with India.

The indication was given by Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan to Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu at the India-China Joint Economic Group (JEC) meeting.

According to official sources, the Chinese minister expressed confidence that ‘the dragon and the elephant can dance together’ notwithstanding the tensions the two countries witnessed in their relationship last year following the Doklam military stand-off.

The Chinese leader is also believed to have told the Indian side that India and China could promote synergy between Beijing’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and various development initiatives of the Narendra Modi government despite India’s stand on the BRI project.

The meeting of the two trade ministers is being seen as a significant step in the efforts launched by the two countries to reset bilateral ties which suffered a major setback in the wake of the Doklam face-off.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are expected to visit China next month, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to the neighbouring country for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in June.

The JEC also deliberated on many aspects of bilateral trade, including the huge trade deficit that India has been grappling with. India also reiterated its demand that China provide greater market access to Indian pharmaceuticals, agriculture and IT products.

On his part, the Chinese minister Zhong Shan welcomed Indian investment in China and promised to address the trade deficit between the two countries.

India’s import from China was $61.3 billion and exports stood at a much lesser $10.2 billion, with a trade deficit of $51.1 billion in 2016-17. New Delhi is worried over the ongoing trade war between China and the US but at the same time feels the situation offers an opportunity to push for trade concessions from Beijing.