EU wants ‘realistic prospect’ for resuming FTA talks

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018

Chief negotiators to meet in Delhi today

The European Commission has stressed that the stalled negotiations for the proposed India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) or Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) can only be resumed if there is “realistic prospect” of an agreement fructifying.

Resumption of the stalled talks will top the agenda when chief negotiators of both sides meet on Friday in Delhi.

The European Commission has also said that it needs an assurance from the Indian government that it is willing to discuss the outstanding issues concerning reduction in duties and eventual tariff elimination in wines and spirits, automobile and auto components.

“Before resuming negotiations, we need to see meaningful progress on our respective outstanding issues so as to ensure that a resumption of negotiations has a realistic prospect to lead to their successful conclusions,” a spokesperson of the EC told BusinessLine.

The spokesperson also said that while talks are going on at various levels between both the sides, a formal round of negotiation can only take place when it is assured that such a consultation will lead to an “ambitious and broad agreement”.

‘No impact of Brexit’

Refuting the recent statements made by the Indian government that the EU has been delaying the talks due to the ongoing political turmoil in the region owing to Britain’s exit from the Union, the EC said referendum has not changed anything.

“The UK remains a Member State of the EU with all rights and obligations of a Member State until the terms of its exit are agreed. EU law continues to apply in full to the UK and in the UK until it is no longer an EU Member State. Thus, from a legal point of view, the outcome of the UK referendum has not changed anything for the time being,” the spokesperson. India and EU have been negotiating the BTIA for the last nine years. The last round of negotiations took place in 2013. During the last EU-India Summit held in Brussels in March, both sides had vowed to “further” the BTIA talks.

These statements from the European Commission comes more than a week after Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj came down heavily on the bloc at the Horasis India meeting in Portugal.

She pointed towards certain “roadblocks” in the India-EU ties even as she said India is not able to access European markets due to the rising non-tariff barriers there such as technical regulations, phytosanitary measures, industrial standards, conformity assessments or barriers to services exports.

But the European Commission said India also continues to impose several non-tariff barriers that hamper businesses of European companies.

“There are a number of joint working groups where the Indian and EU sides can discuss these barriers … Of course, the value-added of having a free trade agreement in force is in terms of providing a clear set of common rules, procedures and institutions to deal with all sorts of non-tariff barriers,” the EC said.

Published on July 14, 2016

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