NEW DELHI: India and Iran have agreed to open up a channel for exchange of information to start preliminary consultations for a preferential trade agreement (PTA), Parliament was informed today.

“In the second meeting of the Joint Working Group held on 18-19 November, both sides agreed to open up a channel for exchange of information, etc for this purpose,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.

She said that in the first meeting of Joint Working Group on trade and commerce, which was held in April in Tehran, both the sides agreed to examine the scope and the feasibility of entering into a preferential trade agreement.

She also said that the rupee payment arrangement with Iran is in place to ease payment in respect of imports of oil and facilitate payment to exporters in rupees.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at USD 13.13 billion in 2014-15.

In a PTA, two trading partners reduce or eliminate duties on selected products to boost trade and investments.

In a separate reply, she said indigenous steel manufacturers and their associations have requested the government to notify several steel products, having direct bearing on human health and/or critical to safety and security of construction and housing under the mandatory quality certification mark scheme of Bureau of Indian Standards to prohibit import of sub-standard steel products.

During April-September this fiscal, India imported steel worth USD 5.9 billion from China and Korea.