Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu/ File
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu/ File
Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP

The relation between Israel and Asian countries is getting stronger with every passing day. The upcoming free trade agreements (FTAs) between Israel and some Asian countries are proof to this, stated an official.

Speaking to media representatives, Gilad Cohen, Deputy Director-General of the Asia-Pacific Division, said, “The free trade agreement discussions with Korea, China, Vietnam and designated FTA with India are going on.” The discussion with Korea is at an advanced stage and expected to be signed in 2020. Meanwhile, FTAs with Vietnam and China can be expected in 2021, he hinted.

Israel, which has no FTA discussion with Japan, may explore the possibility with Japan. This is mainly because lately, there have been 35 times more investment made in Israel by the Japanese entities.

Cohen said trade between Asian countries and Israel is good, but there is more opportunity that can be explored. China is Israel’s largest trade partner in Asia, followed by India. He hopes that both countries — India and China — resolve their issues peacefully.

The bilateral merchandise trade between India and Israel stood at USD 5.65 billion (excluding defence) in 2018-19. This trade is expected to grow even further. However, FTA discussion between both countries is not that advanced.

“FTA discussion with India is not at an advanced stage,” Cohen stated. The FTA discussion with India is for around 200 products or so.

An FTA between both countries was first proposed in 2010. Since then, two sides have continued their negotiations and the eighth round was held in Israel in November 2013. Yet not much has happened.

It needs to be noted that India is very cautious about such agreements. In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government took a decisive step to withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This decision was taken after India faced internal criticism over the impact this agreement will have on the country.

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