India, EU to take stock of proposed free trade pact on Tuesday

BRUSSELS, June 24: India and EU are scheduled to take stock of the much-delayed negotiations on the proposed free trade agreement at a meeting here on Tuesday.

“Commerce Minister Anand Sharma will meet EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on Tuesday. Both the sides will review the progress of the negotiations, which was started in June 2007. There is a mandate to conclude the talks by end of this year,” a Commerce and Industry Ministry official said.

The agreement, officially dubbed as the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments provisions.

Recently in New Delhi, EU’s Head of delegation to India Joao Cravinho has said by autumn some positive results are expected to come.

The talks for the agreement were to conclude in 2011, but differences between the two sides on the level of opening of the market came in the way of the BTIA.

Inclusion of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is one of the areas on which consensus is yet to be achieved.

Indian pharma companies and some non-government bodies have expressed concerns that inclusion of IPR in the agreement would affect the sector’s ability to produce and export low-cost drugs.

The official said that on services sector, an area of strength for India, also faces hurdles like visa problems in several EU member countries.

EU too wants India to open its services sector like accountancy, insurance, banking and retail.

The negotiations are also stuck on issues such as reduction in tariffs on cars and wines and spirits imported from the EU.

The two-way trade stood at USD 91.3 billion in 2010-11. A Ficci report said that trade is likely to more than double to exceed USD 207 billion by 2015, if the trade pact is formalised.

The country and its largest trading partner, the 27-nation EU, aim to slash duties on over 90 per cent of the trade under the pact.

India has already implemented comprehensive FTAs with countries such as Japan, Malaysia and South Korea. (PTI)