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NEW DELHI : India is seeking duty free market access for its leather goods in countries, including UAE, UK and Australia, with which it is negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) to boost manufacturing and exports, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Wednesday.

He also expressed hope that talks for a similar agreement with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) group will be launched sometime in January or February next year.

Member countries of GCC are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"We are trying to get market access duty free for our leather industry and that is one of our prime asks when we are talking to the UAE, UK and Australia... I do hope that Israel can also open their doors for our leather products.

"All of these countries we are looking at, and talking to them for better market access and better opportunities for your sector," Goyal said at the National Export Excellence Awards function here.

The event was organised by the Council for Leather Exports (CLE).

The minister asked the industry to work on scale and quality to make India a major hub for global brands.

The industry should not wait for government support measures and work on its strengths to boost growth, he added.

Speaking at the event, CLE Chairman Sanjay Leekha said the industry has set an export target of USD 5.89 billion for the current year and it is aiming to reach USD 10 billion by 2025.

"Besides, we are aiming at reaching a domestic leather products and footwear turnover of USD 20 billion by 2025 from the present turnover of USD 12 billion," he said.

He also urged the government to extend the benefits of the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme to the sector as it would help in boosting manufacturing, creating jobs and increasing exports.

Further, he requested for a mega park scheme for the leather sector and setting up of micro clusters near existing traditional clusters with plug-and-play model to promote quicker capacity expansion.

"Price competitiveness is the key to achieve success in the global market. As we are the supplier to global brands, we are required to source raw materials and inputs from nominated overseas suppliers.

"Hence, reinstatement of the Basic Customs Duty exemption on wet blue, crust and finished leathers is extremely important to enhance our business with brands," Leekha said.

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