Israel seeks free trade agreement with India

Netanyahu and Modi Photo: Reuters Adnan Abidi

In his visit to India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing for a free trade agreement.

On his current visit to India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint India-Israel business forum. With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his side Netanyahu's speech to an audience of hundreds of businessmen was broadcast live in India. He said that one of the important things in Israel was solving bureaucratic entanglements in order to facilitate growth.

Netanya added that there would soon be no difference between high-tech and low-tech industry. "We're seeing this in agriculture in technological developments in fields and other areas, such as cars, industry, and so forth. We're seeing something else that is reshaping the world - the effect of big data, connectivity, and artificial intelligence."

In a video released to the press shortly before, Netanyahu responded briefly to Palestinian Authority chairperson Abu Mazen's speech yesterday, saying, "I heard what Abu Mazen said. He revealed the truth, tore off the mask, and showed the entire public the simple truth that I have been laboring to disseminate for many years - the root of the dispute between us and the Palestinians is their persistent refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any borders whatsoever."

Netanyahu also said that in his opinion, Abu Mazen was speaking like this because he feared the US initiative. "He is trying to deprive the US of the role of mediator and to replace them with other parties. The Palestinian Authority has been pampered for too long by the international community, which did not dare to tell them the truth - not about Jerusalem, not about recognizing Israel, and not about their other demands and measures. They were always coddled, and that has changed. It's actually the first time that someone told him the truth face-to-face."

Earlier, Netanyahu held a briefing for the correspondents accompanying him in India, in which he expounded on the relations between the two countries. "India is a global power, and Modi is trying to march his country ahead to make it even more powerful."

According to Netanyahu, Modi is pulling out all the stops to demonstrate his friendship for Israel and the personal friendship between the two men. "Friendship with Israel is developing above all because of the power we are fostering in Israel: economic, technological, security, and intelligence power. There is also an element of personal relations, however, reflected in my relations with a series of leaders, headed by US President Trump, Russian President Putin, but relations with the Indian prime minister are just as close and just as warm. It has an important influence, reflected in practice in a series of agreements we signed today."

Netanyahu went on to say that India was an enormous commercial market for Israel that should be opened. "This market is closed because of bureaucratic difficulties affecting the passages we want to get through. If there is a directive by the Indian government and prime minister to open this, it will accelerate it. It will be reflected in the upcoming meeting of their delegation for talks on a free trade zone. I told the Indian president that we very much want to go ahead with this; this is known, and we're working on it. As an interim measure, however, we have given a list of several hundred products we want exempted from customs duties, so that they can enter, and Israeli companies will be able to enter India without the great barriers."

Netanyahu chose not to comment on the Spike missiles deal between India and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd..

Asked by reporters whether relations with Iran were among the topics he discussed with the Indian prime minister, Netanyahu said that the matter had been raised. "Iran was an important subject. A considerable part of the conversation concerned Iran. I described the threat it posed, its behavior, the danger it constitutes, and its ambition to attain hegemony over the Muslim world and Muslims wherever they live."

As to the nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu told Modi that he had discussed it with European leaders. "I told them to take President Trump seriously. Some of them thought that he would never withdraw from this agreement, and that his words were empty. I told them, 'I suggest that you treat what President Trump says with respect and seriousness.' I think that after what he said on Friday, people will start to understand, perhaps too late, that this is how things are. There is a last opportunity here for the powers to fix the agreement."

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 15, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Netanyahu and Modi Photo: Reuters Adnan Abidi
Netanyahu and Modi Photo: Reuters Adnan Abidi
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