Vidya Ram

UK urges India to ease stance in talks on EU FTA

Vidya Ram Liverpool | Updated on June 24, 2014

We have already liberalised, says British Minister

A British minister has urged India to “surrender” some of its cards in the stalemate over the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. “India holds most of the cards in the negotiations,” Greg Barker, the Conservative Minister of state for Energy and Climate Change told a gathering of Indian business leaders in the British city of Liverpool on Sunday evening.

Urging India to open up sectors, he insisted that there was more room for negotiation on India’s part than Europe’s. “We are more liberal than Indian. We have already liberalised,” he said.

Stalled discussions

Promising to push forward discussions on the FTA, which has stalled because of a lack of agreement on a wide range of issues, he insisted, “We are ready to conclude a treaty.”

Talks on an EU-India FTA commenced back in 2007 but disagreements over a number of issues – the free movement of professionals within the service sector across the EU demanded by India, and the lowering of barriers in a number of sectors ranging from the legal to retail – has meant that discussions have failed to progress.

High Commissioner to the UK Ranjan Mathai said that India had changed enormously against old European pre-conceptions of it and was ready to engage. He urged the EU to take note of India. “The EU needs to change its attitude to India a little…India has now arrived,” he told delegates.

Opportunities

Barker also addressed the opportunities for increasing India-UK trade: while two-way trade has increased significantly over the past few years to around $15 billion it remains far from the target set by the UK government when it came to power in 2010 of raising it to the region of $24 billion.

The next major opportunity for growth came from the Bangalore Mumbai Economic Corridor, on which a feasibility study is currently under way. “It offers a real opportunity for India and the UK to build on its partnership and build a 21st century partnership,” he said.

Published on June 24, 2014

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