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India-EU free trade talks may conclude by Oct

Arun S.
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The Union Minister of Commerce Industry and Textiles, Mr Anand Sharma, with the European Union Trade Commissioner, Mr Karel De Gucht, in Brussels on Tuesday.
The Union Minister of Commerce Industry and Textiles, Mr Anand Sharma, with the European Union Trade Commissioner, Mr Karel De Gucht, in Brussels on Tuesday.

India and the European Union on Tuesday decided to chalk out a roadmap to complete their Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations by October-November this year.

The FTA – officially known as Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) – is likely to be signed during the next India-EU Summit, expected to be held in November.

The Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister, Mr Anand Sharma, said, “After a number of rounds of negotiations, issues of concern to both sides have been identified. We must devote our energies to addressing these issues as expeditiously as possible.”

“India is keen on a successful and balanced outcome of the negotiations at an early date,” he added.

He stated this after meeting the EU Trade Commissioner, Mr Karel De Gucht, here and taking stock of the progress of the negotiations. The ministerial-level meeting followed the talks between the Commerce Secretary, Mr S.R. Rao, and his counterpart as well as between the Chief Negotiators from both sides on Monday. This was the 15th round of FTA negotiations.

MUTUAL CONCERNS

According to official sources, talks on the services sector dominated this round. On cross-border supply of services (outsourcing), the EU raised doubts on whether India is data-secure.

Pointing to the presence of several Fortune 500 companies in India, including their research and development centres, Mr Sharma insisted that India is data secure and sought greater market access for Indian companies providing cross-border supply of services to the EU.

India also demanded that EU ensure freer movement of Indian service professionals, including from the IT sector, through the FTA.

New Delhi also asked the EU to do away with certain “restrictive” safeguard clauses, saying they may come in the way of India availing itself of the concessions offered by the EU in the FTA.

Besides, India has sought more market access in agricultural products.

Meanwhile, the EU has sought clarity on greater market access in wines and spirits and the automobile sectors. The EU also raised protection of Intellectual Property Rights, including Geographical Indications and patents.

Despite the Euro Zone crisis and the slowdown in the Indian economy, trade between India and EU in 2011 increased to $108.8 billion from $83.46 billion in 2010.

arun.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 27, 2012)
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