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Realising India’s potential to push global trade growth, a number of countries, including Russia-led CIS and Gulf Cooperation Council nations, have reached out to India seeking a free trade agreement, commerce minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.

However, the commerce and industry ministry, which is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the UK and European Union (EU), is running short of “capacity" to kick-start negotiations with more countries, Goyal said at an industry event.

Mint had earlier reported that negotiations for an FTA with the five-nation bloc Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) comprising Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, which were to begin at the start of the year, got disrupted due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

“FTA negotiations with the UK are moving at a fast pace. Going forward negotiations with Canada, and the EU will begin. Discussions are ongoing with Isreal. Many more countries are approaching India including Russia & CIS countries, Switzerland & other EU countries, and GCC countries. Commerce Ministry does not have sufficient establishment and capacity to begin negotiations with more countries," Goyal said.

A free trade agreement with Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, experts said, could aid Indian companies to sell generic medicines, tea, canned vegetables, grapes and raisins, rice, coffee and coffee extracts, and related consumables, such as spices, herbs, and essences.

The India-EAEU trade deal was expected to double the bilateral trade with Eurasian countries having $5 trillion in the combined gross domestic product (GDP). Russia is India’s biggest trade partner among EAEU nations as the value of exports to Russia stood at $2.65 billion in 2020-21.

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