Israel hopes India-China tensions will ease soon

Israel hopes India-China tensions will ease soon

Negotiating trade deals with both countries, says official

Israel hopes that tensions between India and China will ease and it is in talks with both countries on trade agreements, according to an Israeli official.

While India and Israel were negotiating a limited trade deal for about 200 designated products, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, China and Vietnam were under way. Israel also planned to discuss India-United Arab Emirates (UAE)-Israel cooperation in a number of areas such as agriculture, technology and water once the UAE-Israel agreement is formally signed in Washington on September 15, the official said.

“We have good relations with India and China,” Gilad Cohen, Deputy Director General of the Asia Pacific division in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told journalists at a special briefing when asked about the four-month stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), “We hope all tensions will be sorted out peacefully and the situation will [ease] soon,” he said.

Last month, the Israeli Foreign Ministry inaugurated its first “Asia-Pacific Day,” hosting 11 Asian countries, including India, at a special event, with a view to increasing trade and investment with the ‘East’ as a key priority for post COVID-19 economic recovery. China, Hong Kong and India are Israel’s biggest trading partners in Asia. Since both China and India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, China’s trade has increased from $50 million to $15 billion, while India’s trade has grown from $200 million to about $5 billion.

“Our most advanced negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement are with [South] Korea at present,” Mr. Cohen said, listing the agreements being discussed. “We hope this will be completed soon, and then in 2021, we will finalise agreements with China and Vietnam,” he noted. While India and Israel’s talks were not in an “advanced stage” yet they were discussing lower tariffs on about 200 products that were “of importance to” both countries.

2007 FTA talks

India and Israel first announced FTA talks in 2007, but the talks have made little progress thus far, despite a push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu during official visits in 2017-2018. One of the main blocks is that Israel refuses to include an agreement on services in trade, which is one of India’s core interests in trade negotiations. However, officials said Israel welcomed workers from a number of Asian countries, including India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, that with cooperation with India in many sectors, as well as the establishment of direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv, hopes of a broader trade agreement have grown. According to an Indian official, the two sides were “exploring” a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) at present.

Israeli officials said they hoped the upcoming agreement with the UAE, the first Gulf country to establish ties with Israel, in a breakthrough negotiated by the United States, would lead to more countries following suit, and Asian countries feeling less “worried” about doing business with Israel and with Gulf countries.

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